You are on page 1of 11

15

Giants as Recipients of Cult in the
Viking Age?
Gro Steinsland
A look at the research in the field of Norse religion will soon
show that scholars have made considerable efforts to grasp the
nature of the giants. I The giants have been understood as beings
connected with death, situated in the underworld; as corpse-
eating demons; as enormous figures created by the human mind
in mental states of ecstasy, intoxication, or in conditions of
extreme hunger. Usually they are interpreted as personifications
of the wild and impressive nature of western Norway and Ice-
land. And especially they are seen as the enemies of the gods.
2
On one point only has there been full agreement among
scholars within different fields of research: it has been unani-
mously taken for granted that giants have never been connected
with ritual in any form. Some examples illustrating this will be
mentioned below.
Magnus Olsen stated his agreement with the dominating
trend in the field of research in these words: 'On the other
hand one has to agree with Heusler stating that "Kultus von
Riesinnen oder Riesen ... fUr das nordische Heidentum nicht
Glaubhaft bezeugt (ist)".'3 Jan de Vries sums up the discussion
in the following words: 'Es braucht kaum gesagt zu werden,
dass in dieser Entwicklung nirgends fUr einen Kult der Riesen
ein Platz zu finden ist'.4 Anne Holtsmark's statement is equally
categorical: 'Menjotnene har aldri kultus. De har vrert bekjem-
pet, ikke dyrket' (The giants never got any sort of cult. They
have been combatted, not worshipped).
5
Indeed, Holtsmark
makes the lack of any ritual context a sign of definition of
giants. Giants were traditionally confused with trolls and land-
vettir, but: 'De skiller seg fra vettene i det at de aldri skal ha
GIANTS AS RECIPIENTS OF CULT IN
offer' (The giants differ from the vettir in th
offerings).6
In short, it is established as something IiJ
that the Norse jptnir never received offeriD
Nevertheless we shall venture to questiOl:
and take a new look at the sources. As a
Eddaic poetry explicitly connects shrines 1i
beyond any doubt a giant, viz. the giantc3!
Odinn's visions of the homes of the gods, 3J
find a giant's home described:
prymheimr heitir inn setti
er piazi bio,
sa inn amatki iQtunn;
enn nu Scaoi byggvir,
scir briJ.or gooa,
fornar toptir fQour.
7
Gm 11
The dramatic circumstances that made s:
Prymheimr are, according to Snorri, callS
reconciliation, which resulted in marriage be
of the murdered giant and the vanir-goo, N
The incorporation of a giant's home a.mc
the gods is in itself remarkable. And it is eYe
that the circumstances have not received
scholarly research. The mythical dwelling
counterpart in the psysical shrine. And in
her ve ok vangr, is mentioned. On this occas
ening the evildoer Loki in following words:
fni minom veom
oc vQngom scolo
per re kQld nio koma. Ls 51
Ve and vangr are common terms for sites .
place. G. Turville-Petre is the only one to I
relationship is problematic: 'If Skadi, this sbi
was of giant race, it is surprising that she WOll
Early in the century attention was draw
Skadi from another field than that of histo
from toponomy. Hjalmar Lindroth presented
in 1930 his views concerning a group of DaD
ocipients of Cult in the

I in the field of Norse religion will soon
fe made considerable efforts to grasp the
he giants have been understood as beings
situated in the underworld; as corpse-
mollS figures created by the human mind
:stasy, intoxication, or in conditions of
ly they are interpreted as personifications
;sive nature of western Norway and Ice-
leY are seen as the enemies of the gods.
2
has there been full agreement among
nt fields of research: it has been unani-
ed that giants have never been connected
I. Some examples illustrating this will be
:d his agreement with the dominating
research in these words: 'On the other
: with Heusler stating that "Kultus von
I ... fUr das nordische Heidentum nicht
~ " ' : 3 Jan de Vries sums up the discussion
s: 'Es braucht kaum gesagt zu werden,
lung nirgends fur einen Kult der Riesen
" Anne Holtsmark's statement is equally
:De bar aldri kultus. De har vrert bekjem-
giants never got any sort of cult. They
. not worshipped).5 Indeed, Holtsmark
, ritual context a sign of definition of
ditionally confused with trolls and land-
seg fra vettene i det at de aldri skal ha
GIANTS AS RECIPIENTS OF CULT IN THE VIKING AGE? 213
offer' (The giants differ from the vettir in that they never receive
offerings).6
In short, it is established as something like an accepted truth
that the Norse jptnir never received offerings of any sort.
Nevertheless we shall venture to question this accepted truth
and take a new look at the sources. As a matter of fact the
Eddaic poetry explicitly connects shrines with a being who is
beyond any doubt a giant, viz. the giantess Skadi. Gm depicts
Odinn's visions of the homes of the gods, among which we also
find a giant's home described:
:Prymheimr heitir inn setti
er :Piazi bio,
sa inn amatki iQtunn;
enn nu Scaoi byggvir,
scir brlior g06a,
fornar toptir fQ6ur.
7
Gm 11
The dramatic circumstances that made Skadi the owner of
Prymheimr are, according to Snorri, caused by murder and
reconciliation, which resulted in marriage between the daughter
of the murdered giant and the vanir-god, Njordr.
The incorporation of a giant's home amongst the abodes of
the gods is in itself remarkable. And it is even more remarkable
that the circumstances have not received much attention in
scholarly research. The mythical dwelling of a god has its
counterpart in the psysical shrine. And in Ls Skadi's shrines,
her ve ok vangr, is mentioned. On this occasion Skadi is threat-
ening the evildoer Loki in following words:
fra minom veom
oc vQngom scolo
per re kQld ni6 koma. Ls 51
Ve and vangr are common terms for sites where a cult takes
place. G. Turville-Petre is the only one to point out that this
relationship is problematic: 'If Skadi, this shining bride of gods,
was of giant race, it is surprising that she would be worshipped.
8
Early in the century attention was drawn to the figure of
Skadi from another field than that of history of religion, viz.
from toponomy. Hjalmar Lindroth presented in 1914 and again
in 1930 his views concerning a group of names strongly repre-
sented in the middle and south of Sweden and also in the south-
east of Norway. names like Skadevi, Skedvi, Skee, Skj01 etc.
Lindroth postulated a first part Skedju-, gen. of Skedja, a
fem.form to masc. Skadi. This fem.form of the name is com-
monly linked to well-known terms of cult-places: ve, -hoi or -
lundr.
We are not going to enter into this toponomical discussion,
but we ought to remind ourselves that this group of names
probably bear witness to a time when the name of Skadi was
attached to cult-places. The toponyms seem to belong to old
agrarian areas.
9
In our context it is interesting to notice that discussions
concerning Skadi within toponomy totally avoided approaching
the question of giants. Lindroth drew the conclusion that Skadi
was an old goddess. And all those who perceived the figure of
Skadi in toponomical material, have without further investiga-
tion treated her as an old goddess, somewhat faded as time
passed on and at last reduced to an inhabitant of the world of
giants.
1o
There is, however, nothing in the source material to justify
this conclusion. Indeed, the Edda poetry always presents Skadi
as a giantess. Her giant-nature is stressed, not disregarded. The
literary sources suggest that the question should be put in this
way: If a group of toponyms really contains the name of the
giantess Skadi combined with a term designating a cult-place
or shrine, then perhaps these sources bear witness to an old cult
of giantesses?
In myth Skadi is united to Njordr through marriage. The
myth has its parallel in the hieros gamos-myth of Freyr and
Gerd, a mythic theme which forms the core of Skm.
In 1909 Skmwas analysed by Magnus Olsen, and his interpre-
tation has become classical. According to his view, Skm exem-
plifies the Nordic version of the world-wide myth of father sky
and mother earth. Freyr is seen as the old Norse sky-god and
Gerd as the goddess of agriculture. Their mythic marriage se-
cures fertility and wealth and was ritually re-enacted every
spring.
From our point of view it seems remarkable that Olsen and
his many followers could without question treat Gerd as a
goddess. No attention at all was paid to the fact that the woman
214 WORDS AND OBJECTS
GIANTS AS RECIPIENTS OF CULT IN THE VB
is, in fact, a giantess; born, grown up and st
Jotunheimr. The theme of gianthood is avoidt
and as a cuitic problem; even as a religious
The avoidance of gianthood as a religious
ways also applies to more recent analyses of
and Gerd. It applies to Ursula Dronke's inb
of 1962, where the giant-nature of Gerd W3l
of uncleanness generally connected with WI
(l98Ia) stresses the hieros gamos as an expn:
for power. And in many ways the religious
lost in the structuralistic approaches of Lars
and Stephan Mitchell's of 1983. According
is an expression of tensions in medieval Ia
tween the official view of marriage and an
passion. Gerd is a symbol of prohibited indiv
social tension is resolved through the myth.
between the god and the giantess is not at a
a religious theme. Mitchell's approach is a
and like Lonnroth he understands the myll
pressions of tensions in society. He does II(
the marriage motif as such, but regards the
for resolving inherent conflicts between feu(
ciety. None of these later interpreters seems 1
specific religious-mythic and/or cultic-eoo
To disregard the strong emphasis laid on t
the literary sources and to neglect the religil
myth, seems disquieting. The literary SOUI'(
disregard, but on the contrary underline the
of Skadi and Gerd. Skadi is distinctly mentic
in Gm (Gm 1I), and in Ls she is explicitly Cl
father-the well-known giant Tiazi (Ls 5 0 - ~
with the vanir Njordr does not weaken her giaJ
Snorri relates that the marriage never was a so
felt comfortable in Noatun, nor Njordr in 1
way the conflict was resolved by a compn:
changed their dwelling place every ninth day.
The Eddaic poetry and Snorri's testimony 4
the jptunn character of the figures and t.IH
giantesses and shrines are to be taken seriom
Our hypothesis concerning the possibility (
is, in fact, a giantess; born, grown up and still an inhabitant of
Jotunheimr. The theme of gianthood is avoided both as a mythic
and as a cultic problem; even as a religious problem at all.
The avoidance of gianthood as a religious theme in different
ways also applies to more recent analyses of the myth of Freyr
and Gerd. It applies to Ursula Dronke's interpretation of Skm
of 1962, where the giant-nature of Gerd was seen as a symbol
of uncleanness generally connected with women. Lotte Motz
(1981a) stresses the hieros gamos as an expression of a struggle
for power. And in many ways the religious perspective is also
lost in the structuralistic approaches of Lars LOnnroth of 1978
and Stephan Mitchell's of 1983. According to Lonnroth, Skm
is an expression of tensions in medieval Icelandic society be-
tween the official view of marriage and an individual, erotic
passion. Gerd is a symbol of prohibited individual passion. The
social tension is resolved through the myth. The relationship
between the god and the giantess is not at all looked upon as
a religious theme. Mitchell's approach is also structuralistic,
and like Lonnroth he understands the mythic conflict as ex-
pressions of tensions in society. He does not, however, stress
the marriage motif as such, but regards the myth as a matrix
for resolving inherent conflicts between feuding groups in so-
ciety. None of these later interpreters seems to be aware of the
specific religious-mythic and/or cultic-eontent of the lay.
To disregard the strong emphasis laid on the jptunn motif in
the literary sources and to neglect the religious perspective in
myth, seems disquieting. The literary sources do not try to
disregard, but on the contrary underline the gigantic character
of Skadi and Gerd. Skadi is distinctly mentioned as a giantess
in Gm (Gm 11), and in Ls she is explicitly connected with her
father-the well-known giant Tiazi (Ls 50-51). The marriage
with the vanir Njordr does not weaken her giant-nature. Instead,
Snorri relates that the marriage never was a success, Skadi never
felt comfortable in Noatun, nor Njordr in Thrymheimr. In a
way the conflict was resolved by a compromise: the couple
changed their dwelling place every ninth day.
The Eddaic poetry and Snorri's testimony demand that both
the jptunn character of the figures and the combination of
giantesses and shrines are to be taken seriously.
Our hypothesis concerning the possibility of a cult of giants
:> OBJECJS
and south of Sweden and also in the south-
:.mes like Skadevi. Skedvi, Skee, Skj01 etc.
J a first part Skedju-, gen. of Skedja, a
Skadi This fem.form of the name is com-
II-tnown terms of cult-places: ve, -hof or -
. to enter into this toponomical discussion,
:mind ourselves that this group of names
:ss to a time when the name of Skadi was
ICeS. The toponyms seem to belong to old
l: is interesting to notice that discussions
Ihin toponomy totally avoided approaching
ls. Lindroth drew the conclusion that Skadi
. And all those who perceived the figure of
al material, have without further investiga-
an old goddess, somewhat faded as time
~ reduced to an inhabitant of the world of
r. nothing in the source material to justify
:ed, the Edda poetry always presents Skadi
ant-nature is stressed, not disregarded. The
,:st that the question should be put in this
toponyms really contains the name of the
Dined with a term designating a cult-place
IpS these sources bear witness to an old cult
united to Njordr through marriage. The
:I in the hieros gamos-myth of Freyr and
De which forms the core of Skm.
malysed by Magnus Olsen, and his interpre-
lassical According to his view, Skm exem-
mon of the world-wide myth of father sky
:;'reyr is seen as the old Norse sky-god and
s of agriculture. Their mythic marriage se-
wealth and was ritually re-enacted every
f view it seems remarkable that Olsen and
could without question treat Gerd as a
.. at all was paid to the fact that the woman
GIANTS AS RECIPIENTS OF CULT IN THE VIKING AGE? 215
is supported from another source: VQlsapattir, a mIssIonary
story in Flateyarb6k connected to St. Olav. The story of the
horse's phallus called VQlsi, sanctified by the housewife and
worshipped by the household, is used by a Christian writer. But
within the Christian frame, we can discern a unique testimony
of a heathen ritual. Especially the strophic parts of the story
betray an old layer. The main point in the analysis of the ritual,
is the refrain: jJiggi m(lrnir jJetta bloeti, do m(lrnir accept this
sacrifice.
The interpretation of m(lrnir has caused a great deal of trou-
ble. Linguistically there are two possibilities of interpretation:) I
(1) m(lrn, masc. sing., meaning 'sword', testified among
sword-heiti in SnE.
(2) m(lrnir, fem.pl., meaning 'giantesses'. This meaning is best
exemplified in the sources: Sn.E.l>ulur; HaustlQng 6;
1>6rsdnipa; Sturl.saga I, 280.
Most of the scholars who have been occupied with Vp, con-
sider that linguistically the plural form is to be preferred. Still,
this form has been rejected. This is the case with Andreas
Heusler, who analysed the story in 1903; with M. Olsen in 1909,
and their followers. What is the reason for their choice of
interpretation? The answer is: the dogma that giants were never
the object of any form af cultic ritual.
Folke Strom exemplifies this dilemma in a very clear way. He
retains the plural form in his interpretation but translates m(lrnir
as disir, the collective of female powers of fertility. 12
Most scholars choose the former possibility: m(lrnir = masc.
sing. meaning 'sword'. According to the priapical appearance
of Freyr, they see the word as a metaphor of this god. The
ritual performance described is then apprehended as an example
of a sjiIlfr sjiIlfum offering, a god's offering of himself to him-
self. 13
Nevertheless, the fact remains that m(lrn is a term meaning
giantess. In HaustlQng 6 the giant Thiazi is mentioned marnar
jaoir, the father of m(lrn, and his daughter is Skadi.
The ritual described in Vp obviously has the character of a
hieros gamos; in one stanza bruokonur are mentioned. The
figures who are asked to receive the phallus VQlsi, are m(lrnir,
the giantesses. Vp contains reminiscences of an old ritual per-
formed for giantesses.
216 WORDS AND OBJECTS
GIANTS AS RECIPIENTS OF CULT IN TIlE •
We will now return to the hieros gamo
giantess. This problem concerns the subjel
Norse tradition in general. There is much
in this field, and we will not go into the sut
but limit ourselves to pointing out some
relevant to the present study.
F. Strom has recently analysed one typI
Norse tradition, the one attached to thI
Another group concerns sexual union betw
in order to obtain a desirable object. This gr
different types of hieros gamos: .
(a) Hieros gamos in order to procreate vt
procreated Vali by the giantess Rind, he be
~ a l d r ; with Grid, Odinn procreated Vidar,
gical avenger.
(b) Hieros gamos between god and giantc!i
hold of a desirable object. Odinn's relation
access to the mead of Suttung.
(c) Hieros gamos between the van;r god and
to be of another sort. It seems to involve ..
(A fact that is not explicitly stated in rei
Gerd, but it seems logical to see the Ill3.I'l
parents Njordr and Skadi as prototypic of 1
Skm.)
Matrimony was one of the most importaJl
old Norse society. Marriage implied new tic
Circumstances concerning ownership and ill
nificantly influenced. This social perspective
we seek the deeper meaning of the i.mager')
structuralistic approach also stresses this po
the myth expresses genuine religious rona:
dependent on the giants, a fact that in man
by the Eddaic mythology. Their alliances i
and fateful. The giants represent protologic
are owners of important treasures, necessar
the same time relations with the giantic poll
disastrous. As time passes on the gods becoJ:
deeply involved in alliances with the jptnir.
field has accentuated too much the opposi1
and giants. Necessary relations and intenM
We will now return to the hieros gamos of the god and the
giantess. This problem concerns the subject of hieros gamos in
Norse tradition in general. There is much unexplored material
in this field, and we will not go into the subject in all its aspects,
but limit ourselves to pointing out some of the facts that are
relevant to the present study.
F. Strom has recently analysed one type of hieros gamos in
Norse tradition, the one attached to the sacred kingdom.
14
Another group concerns sexual union between god and giantess
in order to obtain a desirable object. This group contains several
different types of hieros gamos:
(a) Hieros gamos in order to procreate vengeful sons. adinn
procreated Vali by the giantess Rind, he became the avenger of
Baldr; with Grid, Odinn procreated Vidar, his own eschatolo-
gical avenger.
(b) Hieros gamos between god and giantess as a means to get
hold of a desirable object. Odinn's relation with Gunnlod gives
access to the mead of Suttung.
(c) Hieros gamos between the vanir god and the giantesses seems
to be of another sort. It seems to involve lasting relationships.
(A fact that is not explicitly stated in relation to Freyr and
Gerd, but it seems logical to see the marriage between their
parents Njordr and Skadi as prototypic of the hieros gamos in
Skm.)
Matrimony was one of the most important institutions in the
old Norse society. Marriage implied new ties between families.
Circumstances concerning ownership and inheritance were sig-
nificantly influenced. This social perspective is important when
we seek the deeper meaning of the imagery of the myth. The
structuralistic approach also stresses this point. But the core of
the myth expresses genuine religious concerns. The gods are
dependent on the giants, a fact that in many ways is betrayed
by the Eddaic mythology. Their alliances are both necessary
and fateful. The giants represent protological knowledge and
are owners of important treasures, necessary for the gods. At
the same time relations with the giantic powers turn out to be
disastrous. As time passes on the gods become more and more
deeply involved in alliances with the jptnir. Research in this
field has accentuated too much the opposition between gods
and giants. Necessary relations and interactions seem to be
iiID OBJECI'S
another source: VQlsapattir, a missIOnary
ok connected to St. Olav. The story of the
lied VQIsi, sanctified by the housewife and
household, is used by a Christian writer. But
:n frame, we can discern a unique testimony
L Especially the strophic parts of the story
_The main point in the analysis of the ritual,
.; "'9mir petta bloeti, do mprnir accept this
:til of "'9mir has caused a great deal of trou-
lbere are two possibilities of interpretation: 11
sing., meaning 'sword', testified among
I SnE.
d., meaning 'giantesses'. This meaning is best
in the sources: Sn.E.pulur; HaustlQng 6;
turl.saga I, 280.
)Iars who have been occupied with vp, con-
:ally the plural form is to be preferred. Still,
n rejected. This is the case with Andreas
'Sed the story in 1903; with M. Olsen in 1909,
"S.. What is the reason for their choice of
: answer is: the dogma that giants were never
orm af cultic ritual.
mplifies this dilemma in a very clear way. He
.rmin his interpretation but translates mprnir
iYe of female powers of fertility. 12
lOOSe the former possibility: mprnir = masc.
:tnf'. According to the priapical appearance
the word as a metaphor of this god. The
described is then apprehended as an example
offering. a god's offering of himself to him-
:: fact remains that mprn is a term meaning
qng 6 the giant Thiazi is mentioned marnar
."'9"'. and his daughter is Skadi.
!bed in vp obviously has the character of a
one stanza bruokonur are mentioned. The
ked to receive the phallus VQlsi, are mprnir,
contains reminiscences of an old ritual per-
ses.
GIANTS AS RECIPIENTS OF CULT IN THE VIKING AGE? 217
mikil myndi rett iQtna
ef allir lif3i,
vretr myndi manna
undir mi5gar5i.
more adequate conceptions for the complex relations between
these two groups.
Thor is usually depicted as the giant-fighter par excellence,
his hammer is always lifted against Jotunheimr. Still, even this
god makes utterances which reveal deep insight into the com-
plexity of cosmology. He displays viewpoints which we today
would classify as ecological. In Hblj 23 Thor utters the following
during a verbal dispute with Odinn:
The kin of giants would grow mighty if all of them were allowed
to live. If so, there would be few people in Midgardr. Thor's
preoccupation is the balance in cosmos, not the extermination
of one of two feuding groups. The harmonious relation between
the different groups must be secured. This deep insight is as-
cribed even to Thor, who is usually not the first to be associated
with wisdom.
The traces of a cult of giants found in the literary sources
probably get their deepest meaning from a cosmological point of
view. The giants constitute groups of power which are extremely
important for the cosmic balance. They have to be fitted into
the whole. Accordingly, they have to be taken care of ritually.
It is only appropriate that the vanir-gods are given the task
of establishing lasting alliances with the world of the jfJtnir.
Njordr is called a god of hostage in Ls 34. He has come from
outside, he is the guarantee ofpeace and alliances among groups
of gods.
Our next question is: what sort of cult has been paid to the
giants? Vp constituted an example of a fertility cult. The Eddie
myths of hieros gamos also indicate fertility rites of some sort.
It seems reasonable to suppose that apotropaical rituals directed
towards giants have also been important. In all cultures averting
rituals are known and performed in order to keep disastrous
powers within certain limits.
Until now we have dealt with giant maidens; our ritual exam-
ples have all dealt with cultic rituals directed to females. Cer-
tainly there are many different groups of
present we can state that the cult of fen
directly suggested in the literary material. F
will probably uncover traces of rituals perf(
giants. In Sskm for example, Snorri tells in h
about a travel in the lands of giants. Three ,
and Loki are on their way through UtgaJ
tired and hungry and want to prepare some
is spent on trying to fry an ox. In the me
watching from a tree. The gods do not sua:
promised the eagle a part of the roast. The I
the giant Thiazi. In the end he steals the belt
The story seems to be based upon knowle
of sacrifice. The story relates that beyond
blessed homes of gods and men, tribute is
powers who are the owners of the land. In
the gods enter Utgardr, which is the land ofJ
ingly they have to pay some fee in form ofa
discuss whether the actual tribute is to be di
or sacrifice. But the question is not of any
Have we really discovered something like
rituals for beautiful giant maidens and meat.
culine giants? The model is not that simpll
source material will give further insight anci
plexity of the cult of giants.
The question concerning the cult of gUm
directed towards archeological source materi
Obviously the giants have important roles b
decorations. The scaldic descriptions ofpictm
or walls is noteworthy. Every scene depictc
Hvini in HaustlQng deals with relationships I
giants. The same concerns Vlfr Uggason's J
scription of the wall-paintings of 0laJr Pai in I.
tant question is whether these representatiom
function only or whether they primarily repm
-mythic or cultic - content. Obviously difti
mand different methods. Picture stones from 1
ing the introduction of Christianity, conta
Christian and heathen motifs, veil the teusio
mind. From a Christian point of view every hl
GIANTS AS RECIPIENTS OF CULT IN THE V
WORDS AND OBJECTS 218
tainly there are many different groups of jptnir, but for the
present we can state that the cult of female giants is most
directly suggested in the literary material. Further investigation
will probably uncover traces of rituals performed also for male
giants. In Sskm for example, Snorri tells in his novelistic manner
about a travel in the lands of giants. Three gods, Odinn, Henir
and Loki are on their way through Utgardr,l5 They become
tired and hungry and want to prepare some food. Much effort
is spent on trying to fry an ox. In the meantime an eagle is
watching from a tree. The gods do not succeed until they have
promised the eagle a part of the roast. The bird turns out to be
the giant Thiazi. In the end he steals the better part of the food.
The story seems to be based upon knowledge of an old ritual
of sacrifice. The story relates that beyond the limits of the
blessed homes of gods and men, tribute is to be paid to the
powers who are the owners of the land. In the story of Sskm
the gods enter Utgardr, which is the land of giants, and accord-
ingly they have to pay some fee in form of a sacrifice. (One can
discuss whether the actual tribute is to be classified as offering
or sacrifice. But the question is not of any importance here.)
Have we really discovered something like a model? Fertility
rituals for beautiful giant maidens and meat-offerings for mas-
culine giants? The model is not that simple; another sort of
source material will give further insight and add to the com-
plexity of the cult of giants.
The question concerning the cult of giants also has to be
directed towards archeological source material.
Obviously the giants have important roles to play in figurative
decorations. The scaldic descriptions of picture-series on shields
or walls is noteworthy. Every scene depicted by I>jooolfr or
Hvini in HaustlQng deals with relationships between gods and
giants. The same concerns Dlfr Uggason's Husdnipa, the de-
scription of the wall-paintings of Ohifr Pai in Iceland. An impor-
tant question is whether these representations had a decorative
function only or whether they primarily represented a religious-
-mythic or cuitic - content. Obviously different sources de-
mand different methods. Picture stones from the period follow-
ing the introduction of Christianity, containing compound
Christian and heathen motifs, veil the tension in the heathen
mind. From a Christian point of view every heathen motif may
OBJECTS
:ptions for the complex relations between
:picted as the giant-fighter par excellence,
s lifted against lotunheimr. Still, even this
:s which reveal deep insight into the com-
r. He displays viewpoints which we today
ogicaL In Hblj 23 Thor utters the following
DIe with Odinn:
Itna
I
lid grow mighty if all of them were allowed
would be few people in Midgardr. Thor's
balance in cosmos, not the extermination
: groups. The harmonious relation between
must be secured. This deep insight is as-
who is usually not the first to be associated
lIt of giants found in the literary sources
:pest meaning from a cosmological point of
:titute groups of power which are extremely
ISmic balance. They have to be fitted into
gIy, they have to be taken care of ritually.
iate that the vanir-gods are given the task
ag alliances with the world of the jptnir.
d of hostage in Ls 34. He has come from
rantee ofpeace and alliances among groups
is: what sort of cult has been paid to the
d an example of a fertility cult. The Eddic
os also indicate fertility rites of some sort.
() suppose that apotropaical rituals directed
also been important. In all cultures averting
lid performed in order to keep disastrous
II limits.
~ d e a J t with giant maidens; our ritual exam-
ith cultic rituals directed to females. Cer-
GIANTS AS RECIPIENTS OF CULT IN THE VIKING AGE? 219
Jernalderens billedkunst var utelukkende sakrale billeder,
som hadde en dyp og hellig mening for den hedenske tanke-
gang. Av billedenes anvendelse kan det ogsa sluttes at de
tjente til vern og beskyttelse (The pictorial art of the Iron
Age is fundamentally sacred, the pictures had a deep and
holy meaning and they were made for protection).16
be used as a symbol of evil, but sometimes heathen gods are
given the function of forerunners of Christ. After all, the ten-
sions between the heathen creative and chaotic powers are
missed within the new context. Basically it is in pre-Christian
sources that we can look for the original function of the figura-
tive art of the Iron Age in a fruitful way.
In an article on prehistoric art in 1931 Haakon Schetelig
stated that the figurative art of the Iron Age is not to be looked
upon as private and decorative only:
I will concentrate on one example. One of the three pictorial
stones constituting the monument of Hynnestad, Skane, in the
south of Sweden, shows a single, female figure. She is riding on
a beast like a wolf, uses snakes for reins, and has herself a tongue
like a snake. The woman has been interpreted as Hyrrokkin, the
giantess who, according to Snorri, was called for when nobody
else was able to push the boat with the dead Baldr into the sea.
17
The woman turns out to be an extremely important person; as
a matter of fact her function is absolutely necessary in the
funeral ritl;lal. Probably this is an element that has hitherho
been somewhat overlooked. According to Monica Rydbeck,
who published her dissertation in 1936 on pictorial stones from
Skane, the 'Hyrrokin-stone' must be of pre-Christian origin. IS
Accordingly it belongs to the heathen funeral tradition. Obvi-
ously the very act of raising the stone-monument is to be classi-
fied as a ritual. The picture on the stone indicates that the ritual
once performed was of apotropaic character. According to the
Baldrmyth, this giantess would probably help the dead to start
his journey to the other world.
If the giants were such important figures in critical situations
as the myths indicate, it is not surprising at all that they were
dealt with ritually. After all, it would be more remarkable if
Norse tradition should miss any ritual dealing with powers on
GIANTS AS RECIPIENTS OF CULT IN THE v:
whom the whole of existence finally depeo
as necessary to the world as the gods are. I'll
Notes
1. The group of mythical beings which in modem ~
giants, consists of different beings: j(ltunn (pI. Ntli
noun), risi, bergrisi, troll. In this study we ,,"iII •
relations of the different kinds.
2. Jan de Vries sums up the discussion in Altgermtllli
1:241 pp. Recently Lotte Motz has dealt with tb
several papers, see Lotte Motz 1981; 1982. Aax
giants represent powers older than the Norse gods 0
they are reminiscences of the gods of the original iI
(Motz 1982).
3. Magnus Olsen 1917:655.
4. Jan de Vries 1970, B.I: 243 pp.
5. Anne Holtsmark in P. A. Munch 1967:78.
6. Op.cit.
7. References to Edda are to Gustav Neckel (00.) Edtl.
Regius, rev. ed. Hans Kuhn, Heidelberg 1962.
8. E. O. G. Turville-Petre 1977:165.
9. Hjalmar Lindroth 1930.
10. Jan de Vries 1970, II: 335 pp.
11. Gro Steinsland and Kari Vogt 1981.
12. Folke Strom 1954:24-24.
13. Ake V. Strom 1975:145 pp.
14. Folke Strom 1983.
15. SnE. Bragaroedur 2.
16. Haakon Schetelig 1931:220.
17. Gylf. 33.
18. Monica Rydbeck 1936:22 pp.
19. After this paper was presented at lsegran; I became
paper: 'Gods and Demons of the Wilderness', Artir
1984, pp. 175-87. Here Motz stresses the viewpoint tIi
?Ider gods of the Nordic inhabitants. According to
III Norse mythology must be due to a historical dew
the opposite: the dramaric tension in Norse cosmoIo
gods and giants. The giants are dealt with ritually
such, not as reminiscences of older kinds of gods.
List of abbreviations:
Gm = GrimnismaI
Gylf = Gylfaginning in SnE.
Hrblj = HarbarOdsljoo
Skm = Skirnismal
SnE = Edda of Snorri Sturluson
WORDS AND OBJECTS 220
Notes
whom the whole of existence finally depended. The giants are
as necessary to the world as the gods are. 19
List of abbreviations:
Gm = Grimnismal
Gylf = Gylfaginning in SnE.
Hrblj = HarbarCidsljoCi
Skm = Skirnismal
SnE = Edda of Snorri Sturluson
221 GIANTS AS RECIPIENTS OF CULT IN THE VIKING AGE?
I. The group of mythical beings which in modem English is called (jpmir)
giants, consists of different beings: jptunn (pI. jptnir), jJurs. gygr (a female
noun), risi, bergrisi. troll. In this study we will not deal with the inter-
relations of the different kinds.
2. Jan de Vries sums up the discussion in Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte
1:241 pp. Recently Lotte Motz has dealt with the problem of giants in
several papers, see Lotte Motz 1981; 1'82. According to her view, the
giants represent powers older than the Norse gods of the Eddaic mythology;
they are reminiscences of the gods of the original inhabitants of the North
(Motz 1982).
3. Magnus Olsen 1917:655.
4. Jan de Vries 1970, B.I: 243 pp.
5. Anne Holtsmark in P. A. Munch 1967:78.
6. Op.cit.
7. References to Edda are to Gustav Neckel (ed.) Edda. Die Lieder des Codex
Regius, rev. ed. Hans Kuhn, Heidelberg 1962.
8. E. O. G. Turville-Petre 1977:165.
9. Hjalmar Lindroth 1930.
10. Jan de Vries 1970, II: 335 pp.
II. Gro Steinsland and Kari Vogt 1981.
12. Folke Strom 1954:24-24.
13. Ake V. Strom 1975:145 pp.
14. Folke Strom 1983.
15. SnE. Bragaroedur 2.
16. Haakon Schetelig 1931:220.
17. Gylf. 33.
18. Monica Rydbeck 1936:22 pp.
19. After this paper was presented at Isegran,' I became aware of Lotte Motz's
paper: 'Gods and Demons of the Wilderness', Arkiv for nordiskfilologi 99,
1984, pp. 175-87. Here Motz stresses the viewpoint that the giants represent
older gods of the Nordic inhabitants. According to this view, the tensions
in Norse mythology must be due to a historical development. My view is
the opposite: the dramatic tension in Norse cosmology presupposes both
gods and giants. The giants are dealt with ritually as chaotic powers as
such, not as reminiscences of older kinds of gods.
:dk:unst var utelukkende sakrale billeder,
p og hellig mening for den hedenske tanke-
nes anvendelse kan det ogsa sluttes at de
; beskyttelse (The pictorial art of the Iron
ltally sacred, the pictures had a deep and
:I they were made for protection).16
,. of evil. but sometimes heathen gods are
:H forerunners of Christ. After all, the ten-
heathen creative and chaotic powers are
leW context. Basically it is in pre-Christian
look: for the original function of the figura-
Age in a fruitful way.
prehistoric art in 1931 Haakon Schetelig
alive art of the Iron Age is not to be looked
I decorative only:
D OBJECI'S
: on one example. One of the three pictorial
the monument of Hynnestad, Skane, in the
lOWS a single, female figure. She is riding on
ISes snakes for reins, and has herself a tongue
HIlan has been interpreted as Hyrrokkin, the
ding to Snorri, was called for when nobody
h the boat with the dead Baldr into the sea.
17
tut to be an extremely important person; as
er function is absolutely necessary in the
Jably this is an element that has hitherho
mooked. According to Monica Rydbeck,
:lissertation in 1936 on pictorial stones from
in-stone' must be of pre-Christian origin.
18
ngs to the heathen funeral tradition. Obvi-
f raising the stone-monument is to be classi-
picture on the stone indicates that the ritual
5 of apotropaic character. According to the
DleSS would probably help the dead to start
Xher world.
: such important figures in critical situations
ate. it is not surprising at all that they were
After all, it would be more remarkable if
Mdd miss any ritual dealing with powers on
222 WORDS AND OBJECTS
Ssm = Skaldskaparmfd in SnE.
vp VQlsapattir
References
Dronke, Ursula, 1962 'Art and Tradition in Skimismal', English and Medieval
Studies, N. Davis and C. L. Wrenn (eds.), London, pp. 250-68.
Heusler, Andreas, 1903. 'Die Geschichte vom VOlsi', Zeitschri/t des VereinsfUr
Volkskunde 13, Berlin.
Holtsmark, Anne, 1968, in P. A. Munch: Norrene gude- og heltesagn, Oslo,
rev., ed., A. Holtsmark.
Lindroth, Hjalmar, 1914. 'En nordisk gudagestalt i ny belysning genom ortnam-
nen', Antikvarisk Tidskri/t XX, Stockholm.
Lindroth, Hjalmar, 1930. Goteborgs Universitiits
drsskri/t 36, Goteborg, pp. 38-49.
Lonnroth, Lars, 1977. 'Skirnismfil och den fomislandska iiktenskapsnormen',
Opuscula Septentrionalia. Festskri/t til Ole Widding 10.10.1977, Copenhagen,
pp. 154-78.
Mitchell, Stephan A., 1983. 'For Scirnis as Mythological Model: fri6 at kaupa',
Arkiv fOr nordisk filologi 98, Lund, pp. 108-122.
Motz, Lotte, 1981a. 'Gerdr', Maalog Minne, 3-4, Oslo, pp. 121-36.
Motz, Lotte, 1981b. 'Giantesses and their Names', FrUhmittelalterliche Studien,
15. Band, Jahrbuch des Instituts fUr Friihmittelalterforschung der Univer-
sitiit Munster, Berlin, pp. 495-511.
Motz, Lotte, 1982. 'Giants in Folklore and Mythologi: A New Approach,
Folklore Vol. 93:i, pp. 70-84.
Olsen, Magnus, 1909. 'Fra gammelnorsk myte og kultus', Maal og Minne,
Oslo, pp. 17-36.
Olsen, Magnus, 1917. Norges Indskri/ter med de (J!/{Jre Runer II, Christiania.
Rydbeck, Monica, 1936. Shines Stenmiistare fore /200, Lund.
Schetelig, Haakon, 1931. 'Billedfremstillinger i jema1derens kunst', Nordisk
Kultur B.XXVlI, KUNST, ed. H. Schetelig, Oslo, pp. 202-224.
Strom, Folke, 1954. Diser, nornar, valkyrjor. Fruktbarhetskult och sakralt kun-
gadome i Norden. Stockholm.
Strom, Folke, 1983. 'Hieros gamos-motivet i Hallfredr Ottarssons Hakonardra-
pa och den nordnorska jarlaviirdigheten', Arkiv for nardiskfilologi 98, Lund,
pp.67-79.
Strom, Ake Y, 1975. 'Germanische Religion', in Germanische und Baltische
Religionen, Die Religion der Menschheit, B. 19, I, ed. Strom, A. V. and
Biezais, H., Stockholm.
Turville-Petre, E. O. G. 1977. Myth and Religion of the North, New York.
Vries, Jan de, 1970. Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte, I-II, Berlin.
16
Bog Corpses and Germ
Ch.12
Falke Strom
In the twelfth chapter of Germania Tacitw
of Germanic criminal law. Of crimes that le:i
ment he gives the following account:
apud concilium accusare quoque I
mtendere. Distinctio poenarum ex delicto.
arboribus suspendunt; ignavos et
caeno ac palude, iniecta insuper
versltas supplicii ilIuc respicit, tamquam !II
teat, .dum puniuntur, flagitia abscondi. (I
one IS also allowed to make accusatiom
charges. Punishments vary according to
Traitors and deserters are hanged from t
the unmanly, and those who have defile
submerged in muddy quagmires and COl
work. The differences in punishment are
the that crimes should be shown up-
publIc but abominations concealed.)
A number of scholars, Germa
archaeologIsts and others have associated Ta
about the category of criminals whose deed:
and who were punished b)l
In quagmIres, WIth the well-known finds of So
ses. The documentation of bog-corpse finds I!
real research on the subject began in the
nmeteenth century. The primus motor and p
was Johanna Mestorf, custodian and, from
Museum vaterliindischer Altertiimer at KieI.

sa inn amatki iQtunn. On this occasion Skadi is threatening the evildoer Loki in following words: fra minom veom oc vQngom scolo per re kQld ni6 koma. her ve ok vangr. this shining bride of gods. viz. it is established as something like an accepted truth that the Norse jptnir never received offerings of any sort. scir brlior g06a. The mythical dwelling of a god has its counterpart in the psysical shrine. 7 Gm 11 The dramatic circumstances that made Skadi the owner of Prymheimr are. enn nu Scaoi byggvir. 8 Early in the century attention was drawn to the figure of Skadi from another field than that of history of religion. which resulted in marriage between the daughter of the murdered giant and the vanir-god. the giantess Skadi. Ls 51 Ve and vangr are common terms for sites where a cult takes place. As a matter of fact the Eddaic poetry explicitly connects shrines with a being who is beyond any doubt a giant. is mentioned. Njordr. fornar toptir fQ6ur. The incorporation of a giant's home amongst the abodes of the gods is in itself remarkable. caused by murder and reconciliation. among which we also find a giant's home described: :Prymheimr heitir inn setti er :Piazi bio. Nevertheless we shall venture to question this accepted truth and take a new look at the sources. G.GIANTS AS RECIPIENTS OF CULT IN THE VIKING AGE? 213 offer' (The giants differ from the vettir in that they never receive offerings). Gm depicts Odinn's visions of the homes of the gods. Hjalmar Lindroth presented in 1914 and again in 1930 his views concerning a group of names strongly repre- . Turville-Petre is the only one to point out that this relationship is problematic: 'If Skadi.6 In short. viz. was of giant race. And in Ls Skadi's shrines. it is surprising that she would be worshipped. according to Snorri. from toponomy. And it is even more remarkable that the circumstances have not received much attention in scholarly research.

According to his view. then perhaps these sources bear witness to an old cult of giantesses? In myth Skadi is united to Njordr through marriage. but we ought to remind ourselves that this group of names probably bear witness to a time when the name of Skadi was attached to cult-places. From our point of view it seems remarkable that Olsen and his many followers could without question treat Gerd as a goddess. This fem. Lindroth drew the conclusion that Skadi was an old goddess. And all those who perceived the figure of Skadi in toponomical material. somewhat faded as time passed on and at last reduced to an inhabitant of the world of giants. Their mythic marriage secures fertility and wealth and was ritually re-enacted every spring. have without further investigation treated her as an old goddess. Lindroth postulated a first part Skedju-.form of the name is commonly linked to well-known terms of cult-places: ve. In 1909 Skm was analysed by Magnus Olsen. and his interpretation has become classical. Freyr is seen as the old Norse sky-god and Gerd as the goddess of agriculture. 1o There is. Her giant-nature is stressed.214 WORDS AND OBJECTS sented in the middle and south of Sweden and also in the southeast of Norway. Skee. We are not going to enter into this toponomical discussion. the Edda poetry always presents Skadi as a giantess. -hoi or lundr. names like Skadevi. 9 In our context it is interesting to notice that discussions concerning Skadi within toponomy totally avoided approaching the question of giants. however. Skm exemplifies the Nordic version of the world-wide myth of father sky and mother earth. gen. Indeed. of Skedja. The myth has its parallel in the hieros gamos-myth of Freyr and Gerd. a mythic theme which forms the core of Skm. Skj01 etc. not disregarded. The literary sources suggest that the question should be put in this way: If a group of toponyms really contains the name of the giantess Skadi combined with a term designating a cult-place or shrine. Skedvi.form to masc. nothing in the source material to justify this conclusion. Skadi. a fem. The toponyms seem to belong to old agrarian areas. No attention at all was paid to the fact that the woman .

In a way the conflict was resolved by a compromise: the couple changed their dwelling place every ninth day. seems disquieting. and like Lonnroth he understands the mythic conflict as expressions of tensions in society. None of these later interpreters seems to be aware of the specific religious-mythic and/or cultic-eontent of the lay. and in Ls she is explicitly connected with her father-the well-known giant Tiazi (Ls 50-51). grown up and still an inhabitant of Jotunheimr.GIANTS AS RECIPIENTS OF CULT IN THE VIKING AGE? 215 is. but on the contrary underline the gigantic character of Skadi and Gerd. The theme of gianthood is avoided both as a mythic and as a cultic problem. The relationship between the god and the giantess is not at all looked upon as a religious theme. The marriage with the vanir Njordr does not weaken her giant-nature. Skadi is distinctly mentioned as a giantess in Gm (Gm 11). in fact. Snorri relates that the marriage never was a success. Lotte Motz (1981a) stresses the hieros gamos as an expression of a struggle for power. but regards the myth as a matrix for resolving inherent conflicts between feuding groups in society. however. erotic passion. According to Lonnroth. The Eddaic poetry and Snorri's testimony demand that both the jptunn character of the figures and the combination of giantesses and shrines are to be taken seriously. where the giant-nature of Gerd was seen as a symbol of uncleanness generally connected with women. Skadi never felt comfortable in Noatun. nor Njordr in Thrymheimr. Instead. It applies to Ursula Dronke's interpretation of Skm of 1962. Our hypothesis concerning the possibility of a cult of giants . To disregard the strong emphasis laid on the jptunn motif in the literary sources and to neglect the religious perspective in myth. born. a giantess. Skm is an expression of tensions in medieval Icelandic society between the official view of marriage and an individual. The literary sources do not try to disregard. And in many ways the religious perspective is also lost in the structuralistic approaches of Lars LOnnroth of 1978 and Stephan Mitchell's of 1983. stress the marriage motif as such. even as a religious problem at all. He does not. The social tension is resolved through the myth. The avoidance of gianthood as a religious theme in different ways also applies to more recent analyses of the myth of Freyr and Gerd. Mitchell's approach is also structuralistic. Gerd is a symbol of prohibited individual passion.

the giantesses. testified among sword-heiti in SnE. . Still. and their followers. who analysed the story in 1903. In HaustlQng 6 the giant Thiazi is mentioned marnar jaoir. What is the reason for their choice of interpretation? The answer is: the dogma that giants were never the object of any form af cultic ritual. sanctified by the housewife and worshipped by the household. 13 Nevertheless. do m(lrnir accept this sacrifice. sing. in one stanza bruokonur are mentioned. this form has been rejected. Linguistically there are two possibilities of interpretation:) I (1) m(lrn. and his daughter is Skadi. the fact remains that m(lrn is a term meaning giantess. This meaning is best exemplified in the sources: Sn. masc.. (2) m(lrnir. Most of the scholars who have been occupied with Vp. The figures who are asked to receive the phallus VQlsi. fem. are m(lrnir. He retains the plural form in his interpretation but translates m(lrnir as disir. This is the case with Andreas Heusler.l>ulur. The interpretation of m(lrnir has caused a great deal of trouble. is the refrain: jJiggi m(lrnir jJetta bloeti. Olav. a mIssIonary story in Flateyarb6k connected to St. 1>6rsdnipa.216 WORDS AND OBJECTS is supported from another source: VQlsapattir. The main point in the analysis of the ritual. 280.E. Folke Strom exemplifies this dilemma in a very clear way.. we can discern a unique testimony of a heathen ritual. the collective of female powers of fertility. the father of m(lrn. Sturl. Olsen in 1909. The story of the horse's phallus called VQlsi. meaning 'sword'. sing.pl. meaning 'giantesses'.saga I. consider that linguistically the plural form is to be preferred. is used by a Christian writer. Especially the strophic parts of the story betray an old layer. The ritual performance described is then apprehended as an example of a sjiIlfr sjiIlfum offering. a god's offering of himself to himself. But within the Christian frame. Vp contains reminiscences of an old ritual performed for giantesses. The ritual described in Vp obviously has the character of a hieros gamos. HaustlQng 6. meaning 'sword'. they see the word as a metaphor of this god. with M. 12 Most scholars choose the former possibility: m(lrnir = masc. According to the priapical appearance of Freyr.

This group contains several different types of hieros gamos: (a) Hieros gamos in order to procreate vengeful sons. At the same time relations with the giantic powers turn out to be disastrous. necessary for the gods. Circumstances concerning ownership and inheritance were significantly influenced. The gods are dependent on the giants. Necessary relations and interactions seem to be . The structuralistic approach also stresses this point. Marriage implied new ties between families. But the core of the myth expresses genuine religious concerns.) Matrimony was one of the most important institutions in the old Norse society. but limit ourselves to pointing out some of the facts that are relevant to the present study. his own eschatological avenger. Research in this field has accentuated too much the opposition between gods and giants. he became the avenger of Baldr. and we will not go into the subject in all its aspects. This problem concerns the subject of hieros gamos in Norse tradition in general. the one attached to the sacred kingdom. This social perspective is important when we seek the deeper meaning of the imagery of the myth. but it seems logical to see the marriage between their parents Njordr and Skadi as prototypic of the hieros gamos in Skm. There is much unexplored material in this field. The giants represent protological knowledge and are owners of important treasures. F. It seems to involve lasting relationships. As time passes on the gods become more and more deeply involved in alliances with the jptnir. Odinn procreated Vidar. a fact that in many ways is betrayed by the Eddaic mythology. (c) Hieros gamos between the vanir god and the giantesses seems to be of another sort. adinn procreated Vali by the giantess Rind. Odinn's relation with Gunnlod gives access to the mead of Suttung. (b) Hieros gamos between god and giantess as a means to get hold of a desirable object. 14 Another group concerns sexual union between god and giantess in order to obtain a desirable object.GIANTS AS RECIPIENTS OF CULT IN THE VIKING AGE? 217 We will now return to the hieros gamos of the god and the giantess. (A fact that is not explicitly stated in relation to Freyr and Gerd. Strom has recently analysed one type of hieros gamos in Norse tradition. with Grid. Their alliances are both necessary and fateful.

he is the guarantee of peace and alliances among groups of gods.218 WORDS AND OBJECTS more adequate conceptions for the complex relations between these two groups. even this god makes utterances which reveal deep insight into the complexity of cosmology. It is only appropriate that the vanir-gods are given the task of establishing lasting alliances with the world of the jfJtnir. The kin of giants would grow mighty if all of them were allowed to live. our ritual examples have all dealt with cultic rituals directed to females. Accordingly. there would be few people in Midgardr. Cer- . they have to be taken care of ritually. It seems reasonable to suppose that apotropaical rituals directed towards giants have also been important. They have to be fitted into the whole. The Eddie myths of hieros gamos also indicate fertility rites of some sort. Until now we have dealt with giant maidens. his hammer is always lifted against Jotunheimr. who is usually not the first to be associated with wisdom. If so. The traces of a cult of giants found in the literary sources probably get their deepest meaning from a cosmological point of view. vretr myndi manna undir mi5gar5i. He displays viewpoints which we today would classify as ecological. not the extermination of one of two feuding groups. In Hblj 23 Thor utters the following during a verbal dispute with Odinn: mikil myndi rett iQtna ef allir lif3i. He has come from outside. The giants constitute groups of power which are extremely important for the cosmic balance. Our next question is: what sort of cult has been paid to the giants? Vp constituted an example of a fertility cult. This deep insight is ascribed even to Thor. Thor is usually depicted as the giant-fighter par excellence. Thor's preoccupation is the balance in cosmos. Still. The harmonious relation between the different groups must be secured. Njordr is called a god of hostage in Ls 34. In all cultures averting rituals are known and performed in order to keep disastrous powers within certain limits.

The scaldic descriptions of picture-series on shields or walls is noteworthy. The same concerns Dlfr Uggason's Husdnipa. The question concerning the cult of giants also has to be directed towards archeological source material.GIANTS AS RECIPIENTS OF CULT IN THE VIKING AGE? 219 tainly there are many different groups of jptnir.l5 They become tired and hungry and want to prepare some food. Much effort is spent on trying to fry an ox. Henir and Loki are on their way through Utgardr. An important question is whether these representations had a decorative function only or whether they primarily represented a religious-mythic or cuitic . The story seems to be based upon knowledge of an old ritual of sacrifice. From a Christian point of view every heathen motif may . but for the present we can state that the cult of female giants is most directly suggested in the literary material. In the meantime an eagle is watching from a tree.content. Obviously different sources demand different methods. In Sskm for example. (One can discuss whether the actual tribute is to be classified as offering or sacrifice. containing compound Christian and heathen motifs. Obviously the giants have important roles to play in figurative decorations. veil the tension in the heathen mind. Snorri tells in his novelistic manner about a travel in the lands of giants. Every scene depicted by I>jooolfr or Hvini in HaustlQng deals with relationships between gods and giants. and accordingly they have to pay some fee in form of a sacrifice. The gods do not succeed until they have promised the eagle a part of the roast. Three gods. the description of the wall-paintings of Ohifr Pai in Iceland. The story relates that beyond the limits of the blessed homes of gods and men. which is the land of giants. Odinn. Further investigation will probably uncover traces of rituals performed also for male giants.) Have we really discovered something like a model? Fertility rituals for beautiful giant maidens and meat-offerings for masculine giants? The model is not that simple. In the end he steals the better part of the food. But the question is not of any importance here. another sort of source material will give further insight and add to the complexity of the cult of giants. tribute is to be paid to the powers who are the owners of the land. Picture stones from the period following the introduction of Christianity. In the story of Sskm the gods enter Utgardr. The bird turns out to be the giant Thiazi.

and has herself a tongue like a snake. Probably this is an element that has hitherho been somewhat overlooked. the tensions between the heathen creative and chaotic powers are missed within the new context. According to the Baldrmyth. Av billedenes anvendelse kan det ogsa sluttes at de tjente til vern og beskyttelse (The pictorial art of the Iron Age is fundamentally sacred. the pictures had a deep and holy meaning and they were made for protection). female figure. She is riding on a beast like a wolf. If the giants were such important figures in critical situations as the myths indicate. who published her dissertation in 1936 on pictorial stones from Skane. in the south of Sweden. After all. Skane. it would be more remarkable if Norse tradition should miss any ritual dealing with powers on . som hadde en dyp og hellig mening for den hedenske tankegang.16 I will concentrate on one example. was called for when nobody else was able to push the boat with the dead Baldr into the sea. it is not surprising at all that they were dealt with ritually. The picture on the stone indicates that the ritual once performed was of apotropaic character. Basically it is in pre-Christian sources that we can look for the original function of the figurative art of the Iron Age in a fruitful way.lal. IS Accordingly it belongs to the heathen funeral tradition. but sometimes heathen gods are given the function of forerunners of Christ.220 WORDS AND OBJECTS be used as a symbol of evil. In an article on prehistoric art in 1931 Haakon Schetelig stated that the figurative art of the Iron Age is not to be looked upon as private and decorative only: Jernalderens billedkunst var utelukkende sakrale billeder. uses snakes for reins. According to Monica Rydbeck. shows a single. One of the three pictorial stones constituting the monument of Hynnestad. The woman has been interpreted as Hyrrokkin. 17 The woman turns out to be an extremely important person. the 'Hyrrokin-stone' must be of pre-Christian origin. as a matter of fact her function is absolutely necessary in the funeral ritl. this giantess would probably help the dead to start his journey to the other world. Obviously the very act of raising the stone-monument is to be classified as a ritual. After all. according to Snorri. the giantess who.

Monica Rydbeck 1936:22 pp. According to her view. Strom 1975:145 pp. 19. Anne Holtsmark in P. B. consists of different beings: jptunn (pI. Hjalmar Lindroth 1930. 18. rev. O. 9. 4. Die Lieder des Codex Regius. jJurs. Magnus Olsen 1917:655. troll.I: 243 pp. 2. the giants represent powers older than the Norse gods of the Eddaic mythology. Jan de Vries 1970. risi. 5. gygr (a female noun). Folke Strom 1983. Op. 33. not as reminiscences of older kinds of gods. Haakon Schetelig 1931:220. bergrisi. List of abbreviations: Gm = Grimnismal Gylf = Gylfaginning in SnE.cit. Bragaroedur 2. Gro Steinsland and Kari Vogt 1981. see Lotte Motz 1981. Here Motz stresses the viewpoint that the giants represent older gods of the Nordic inhabitants. Folke Strom 1954:24-24. A. The group of mythical beings which in modem English is called (jpmir) giants. jptnir). II.' I became aware of Lotte Motz's paper: 'Gods and Demons of the Wilderness'. SnE. Jan de Vries 1970. E. Heidelberg 1962. 10. The giants are as necessary to the world as the gods are. 12. Turville-Petre 1977:165. According to this view. they are reminiscences of the gods of the original inhabitants of the North (Motz 1982). 17. Ake V. G. II: 335 pp. pp. 6. After this paper was presented at Isegran. 19 Notes I. My view is the opposite: the dramatic tension in Norse cosmology presupposes both gods and giants. Hans Kuhn. 16.GIANTS AS RECIPIENTS OF CULT IN THE VIKING AGE? 221 whom the whole of existence finally depended. Hrblj = HarbarCidsljoCi Skm = Skirnismal SnE = Edda of Snorri Sturluson . Recently Lotte Motz has dealt with the problem of giants in several papers. 14. In this study we will not deal with the interrelations of the different kinds. 175-87. 1'82. ed. 15.) Edda. Arkiv for nordiskfilologi 99. 1984. Gylf. 7. Munch 1967:78. 13. References to Edda are to Gustav Neckel (ed. 3. 8. the tensions in Norse mythology must be due to a historical development. The giants are dealt with ritually as chaotic powers as such. Jan de Vries sums up the discussion in Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte 1:241 pp.

Mitchell. 'Ske~Sklilvd~Skedevi'. in P. Schetelig. Die Religion der Menschheit. Jahrbuch des Instituts fUr Friihmittelalterforschung der Universitiit Munster.1977. Goteborgs Universitiits drsskri/t 36. KUNST. Motz. Stephan A. 1982.. 'Skirnismfil och den fomislandska iiktenskapsnormen'. 3-4. pp. Lars. 1977. Davis and C. 15. N. Berlin. Motz. Hjalmar. Andreas. 'Gerdr'. Lotte. New York.XXVlI. Olsen. Lindroth. 'Fra gammelnorsk myte og kultus'. 1931. Maalog Minne. Arkiv for nardisk filologi 98. E. 1930. Munch: Norrene gude. H. 93:i. pp. nornar. 1983. A. Jan de.og heltesagn. Oslo. Shines Stenmiistare fore /200. Vries.). 1909. Strom. English and Medieval Studies. 202-224. Holtsmark.. Opuscula Septentrionalia. I. Ursula. A. 'Giants in Folklore and Mythologi: A New Approach. pp. Strom. Strom. 1954. Hjalmar. Antikvarisk Tidskri/t XX. Monica. 'For Scirnis as Mythological Model: fri6 at kaupa'. G. 'Billedfremstillinger i jema1derens kunst'. pp. Fruktbarhetskult och sakralt kungadome i Norden. Maal og Minne. 70-84. Turville-Petre. Holtsmark. Lotte. pp. Nordisk Kultur B. 1981b. 'En nordisk gudagestalt i ny belysning genom ortnamnen'. Norges Indskri/ter med de (J!/{Jre Runer II. Berlin. Christiania. VQlsapattir References Dronke. Band. Lund. Berlin. 1975. 1970. Festskri/t til Ole Widding 10. 1936. Stockholm. 1962 'Art and Tradition in Skimismal'. ed. B. Arkiv fOr nordisk filologi 98. 495-511. Lindroth.222 Ssm = WORDS AND OBJECTS vp Skaldskaparmfd in SnE. Folke. Zeitschri/t des VereinsfUr Volkskunde 13. Folklore Vol.67-79. Olsen. 'Giantesses and their Names'. Haakon. Stockholm.. Magnus. 121-36. Goteborg. 108-122. 19. 'Die Geschichte vom VOlsi'. Lonnroth. pp. in Germanische und Baltische Religionen. Magnus. 1917. ed. Motz. Heusler. pp. ed. L. Oslo. Diser. 1977. A. 'Germanische Religion'. 154-78. Schetelig. Oslo. pp. Wrenn (eds.. Myth and Religion of the North. 17-36. Folke. Lund. 38-49. Ake Y. Lund. Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte. Strom. 1968. . I-II. 'Hieros gamos-motivet i Hallfredr Ottarssons Hakonardrapa och den nordnorska jarlaviirdigheten'. London. pp. FrUhmittelalterliche Studien. H. 1983. Anne. pp. Rydbeck. 1981a. O. valkyrjor. 1903. V. Oslo. Stockholm. 250-68. Copenhagen. rev. Lotte. and Biezais. 1914.10.