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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 473 pages of information about Balder the Beautiful, Volume I..

[259] Saxo Grammaticus, Historia Danica, ed.  P.E.  Mueller (Copenhagen, 1839-1858), lib. iii. vol. i. pp. 110 sqq.; The First Nine Books of the Danish History of Saxo Grammaticus, translated by Oliver Elton (London, 1894), pp. 83-93.

[260] Fridthjofs Saga, aus dem Alt-islaendischen, von J.C.  Poestion, (Vienna, 1879), pp. 3 sq., 14-17, 45-52.

[261] The Epic of Kings, Stories retold from Firdusi, by Helen Zimmern (London, 1883), pp. 325-331.  The parallel between Balder and Isfendiyar was pointed out in the “Lexicon Mythologicum” appended to the Edda Rhythmifa seu Antiquior, vulgo Saemundina dicta, Pars iii. (Copenhagen, 1828) p. 513 note, with a reference to Schah Namech, verdeutscht von Goerres, ii. 324, 327 sq. It is briefly mentioned by Dr. P. Wagler, Die Eiche in alter und neuer Zeit, ii.  Teil (Berlin, 1891), p. 40.

CHAPTER IV

THE FIRE-FESTIVALS OF EUROPE

Sec. 1. The Lenten Fires

[European custom of kindling bonfires on certain days of the year, dancing round them and leaping over them.  Effigies are sometimes burnt in the fires.]

All over Europe the peasants have been accustomed from time immemorial to kindle bonfires on certain days of the year, and to dance round or leap over them.  Customs of this kind can be traced back on historical evidence to the Middle Ages,[262] and their analogy to similar customs observed in antiquity goes with strong internal evidence to prove that their origin must be sought in a period long prior to the spread of Christianity.  Indeed the earliest proof of their observance in Northern Europe is furnished by the attempts made by Christian synods in the eighth century to put them down as heathenish rites.[263] Not uncommonly effigies are burned in these fires, or a pretence is made of burning a living person in them; and there are grounds for believing that anciently human beings were actually burned on these occasions.  A general survey of the customs in question will bring out the traces of human sacrifice, and will serve at the same time to throw light on their meaning.[264]

[Seasons of the year at which the bonfires are lit.]

The seasons of the year when these bonfires are most commonly lit are spring and midsummer; but in some places they are kindled also at the end of autumn or during the course of the winter, particularly on Hallow E’en (the thirty-first of October), Christmas Day, and the Eve of Twelfth Day.  We shall consider them in the order in which they occur in the calendar year.  The earliest of them is the winter festival of the Eve of Twelfth Day (the fifth of January); but as it has been already described in an earlier part of this work[265] we shall pass it over here and begin with the fire-festivals of spring, which usually fall on the first Sunday of Lent (Quadragesima or Invocavit),[266] Easter Eve, and May Day.

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