The test for death is the red-hot iron or hot brand (used by the Abyssinians of to-day, as it was supposed in the thirteenth century to have been used by Grimhild. “And now Grimhild goes and takes a great brand, where the house had burnt, and goes to Gernot her brother, and thrusts the burning brand in his mouth, and will know whether he is dead or living. But Gernot was clearly dead. And now she goes to Gislher and thrusts the firebrand in his mouth. He was not dead before, but Gislher died of that. Now King Thidrec of Bern saw what Grimhild is doing, and speaks to King Attila. `See how that devil Grimhild, thy wife, is killing her brothers, the good warriors, and how many men have lost their lives for her sake, and how many good men she has destroyed, Huns and Amalungs and Niflungs; and in the same way would she bring thee and me to hell, if she could do it?’ Then spake King Attila, `Surely she is a devil, and slay thou her, and that were a good work if thou had done it seven nights ago! Then many a gallant fellow were whole that is now dead.’ Now King Thidrec springs at Grimhild and swings up his sword Eckisax, and hews her asunder at the middle").
It was believed (as in Polynesia, where “Captain Cook’s path” was shown in the grass) that the heat of the hero’s body might blast the grass; so Starcad’s entrails withered the grass.
It was believed that a severed head might bite the ground in rage, and there were certainly plenty of opportunities for observation of such cases.
It was believed that a “dumb man” might be so wrought on by passion that he would speak, and wholly acquire speech-power.
Little is told of “surgery”, but in one case of intestines protruding owing to wounds, withies were employed to bind round the trunk and keep the bowels from risk till the patient could be taken to a house and his wounds examined and dressed. It was considered heroic to pay little heed to wounds that were not dangerous, but just to leave them to nature.
Personal “cleanliness” was not higher than among savages now. A lover is loused by his lady after the mediaeval fashion.
Christianity—In the first nine books of Saxo, which are devoted to heathendom, there is not much save the author’s own Christian point of view that smacks of the New Faith. The apostleships of Ansgarius in Denmark, the conversion of King Eric, the Christianity of several later Danish Kings, one of whom was (like Olaf Tryggwason) baptised in Britain are also noticed.
Of “Christian legends” and beliefs, besides the euhemerist theory, widely held, of the heathen gods there are few hints, save the idea that Christ was born in the reign of Frode, Frode having been somehow synchronised with Augustus, in whose reign also there was a world-peace.
Of course the christening of Scandinavia is history, and the mythic books are little concerned with it. The episode in Adam of Bremen, where the king offers the people, if they want a new god, to deify Eric, one of their hero-kings, is eminently characteristic and true.