This is the regular myth of Loke, punished by the gods, lying bound with his own soils’ entrails on three sharp stones and a sword-blade, (this latter an addition, when the myth was made stones were the only blades), with snakes’ venom dripping on to him, so that when it falls on him he shakes with pain and makes earthquakes—a Titan myth in answer to the question, “Why does the earth quake?” The vitriolic power of the poison is excellently expressed in the story. The plucking of the hair as a token is like the plucking of a horn off the giant or devil that occurs in some folk-tale.
MAGIC AND FOLK-SCIENCE.
There is a belief in magic throughout Saxo’s work, showing how fresh heathendom still was in men’s minds and memories. His explanations, when he euhemerizes, are those of his day.
By means of spells all kinds of wonders could be effected, and the powers of nature forced to work for the magician or his favourite.
“Skin-changing” (so common in “Landnamaboc”) was as well known as in the classic world of Lucian and Apuleius; and, where Frode perishes of the attacks of a witch metamorphosed into a walrus.
“Mist” is induced by spells to cover and hide persons, as in Homer, and “glamour” is produced by spells to dazzle foemen’s sight. To cast glamour and put confusion into a besieged place a witch is employed by the beleaguerer, just as William the Conqueror used the witch in the Fens against Hereward’s fortalice. A soothsayer warns Charles the Great of the coming of a Danish fleet to the Seine’s mouth.
“Rain and bad weather” may be brought on, as in a battle against the enemy, but in this, as in other instances, the spell may be counteracted.
“Panic Terror” may be induced by the spell worked with a dead horse’s head set up on a pole facing the antagonist, but the spell may be met and combatted by silence and a counter-curse.
“Magic help” may be got by calling on the friendly magician’s name. The magician has also the power of summoning to him anyone, however unwilling, to appear.
Of spells and magic power to blunt steel there are several instances; they may be counteracted (as in the Icelandic Sagas) by using the hilt, or a club, or covering the blade with fine skin. In another case the champion can only be overcome by one that will take up some of the dust from under his feet. This is effected by the combatants shifting their ground and exchanging places. In another case the foeman can only be slain by gold, whereupon the hero has a gold-headed mace made and batters the life out of him therewith. The brothers of Swanhild cannot be cut by steel, for their mail was charmed by the witch Gudrun, but Woden taught Eormenric, the Gothic king, how to overcome them with stones (which apparently cannot, as archaic weapons, be charmed against at all, resisting magic like wood and water and fire). Jordanis tells the true history of Ermanaric, that great Gothic emperor whose rule from the Dnieper to the Baltic and Rhine and Danube, and long reign of prosperity, were broken by the coming of the Huns. With him vanished the first great Teutonic empire.