Scef The Author Of Culture Identical With Heimdal-rig The Original Patriarch
Category: THE MYTH CONCERNING THE EARLIEST PERIOD AND THE EMIGRATIONS FROM THE NORTH.
Source: Teutonic Mythology
But in one respect Are Frode or his authority has paid attention to the
genuine mythic tradition, and that is by making the Vana-gods the
kinsmen of the descendants of Yngve. This is correct in the sense that
Scef-Yngve, the son of a deity transformed into a man, was in the myth a
Vana-god. Accordingly every member of the Yngling race and every
descendant of Scef may be styled a son of Frey (Freys attungr),
epithets applied by Thjodulf in Ynglingatal in regard to the Upsala
kings. They are gifts from the Vana-gods--the implements which point to
the opulent Njord, and the grain sheaf which is Frey's symbol--which
Scef-Yngve brings with him to the ancient people of Scandia, and his
rule is peaceful and rich in blessings.
Scef-Yngve comes across the ocean. Vanaheim was thought to be situated
on the other side of it, in the same direction as AEgir's palace in the
great western ocean and in the outermost domain of Jormumgrund (see 93).
This is indicated in Lokasenna, 34, where Loke in AEgir's hall says to
the Van Njord: "You were sent from here to the East as a hostage to the
gods (thu vart austr hedan gisl um sendr at godum)". Thus Njord's
castle Noatun is situated in the West, on a strand outside of which the
swans sing (Gylfag., 23). In the faded memory of Scef, preserved in the
saga of the Lower Rhine and of the Netherlands, there comes to a
poverty-stricken people a boat in which there lies a sleeping youth. The
boat is, like Scef's, without sails or oars, but is drawn over the
billows by a swan. From Gylfaginning, 16, we learn that there are myths
telling of the origin of the swans. They are all descended from that
pair of swans which swim in the sacred waters of Urd's fountain. Thus
the descendants of these swans that sing outside of the Vanapalace
Noatun and their arrival to the shores of Midgard seems to have some
connection with the coming of the Van Scef and of culture.
The Vans most prominent in the myths are Njord, Frey, and Heimdal.
Though an Asa-god by adoption, Heimdal is like Njord and Frey a Vana-god
by birth and birthplace, and is accordingly called both ass and vanr
(Thrymskv., 15). Meanwhile these three divinities, definitely named
Vans, are only a few out of many. The Vans have constituted a numerous
clan, strong enough to wage a victorious war against the Asas (Voelusp.).
Who among them was Scef-Yngve? The question can be answered as follows:
(1) Of Heimdal, and of him alone among the gods, it is related that he
lived for a time among men as a man, and that he performed that which is
attributed to Scef--that is, organised and elevated human society and
became the progenitor of sacred families in Midgard.
(2) Rigsthula relates that the god Heimdal, having assumed the name Rig,
begot with an earthly woman the son Jarl-Rig, who in turn became the
father of Konr-Rig. Konr-Rig is, as the very name indicates and as
Vigfusson already has pointed out, the first who bore the kingly name.
In Rigsthula the Jarl begets the king, as in Ynglingasaga the judge
(Domarr) begets the first king. Rig is, according to Ynglingasaga, ch.
20, grandfather to Dan, who is a Skjoldung. Heimdal-Rig is thus the
father of the progenitor of the Skjoldungs, and it is the story of the
divine origin of the Skjoldungs Rigsthula gives us when it sings of
Heimdal as Jarl's father and the first king's grandfather. But the
progenitor of the Skjoldungs is, according to both Anglo-Saxon and the
northern sources above quoted, Scef. Thus Heimdal and Scef are
These proofs are sufficient. More can be presented, and the identity
will be established by the whole investigation.
As a tender boy, Heimdal was sent by the Vans to the southern shores of
Scandinavia with the gifts of culture. Hyndla's lay tells how these
friendly powers prepared the child for its important mission, after it
was born in the outermost borders of the earth (vid jardar thraum), in
a wonderful manner, by nine sisters (Hyndla's Lay, 35; Heimdallar
Galdr., in the Younger Edda; compare No. 82, where the ancient Aryan
root of the myth concerning Heimdal's nine mothers is pointed out).
For its mission the child had to be equipped with strength, endurance,
and wisdom. It was given to drink jardar magn svalkaldr saer and Sonar
dreyri. It is necessary to compare these expressions with Urdar magn,
svalkaldr saer and Sonar dreyri in Gudrunarkivda, ii. 21, a song
written in Christian times, where this reminiscence of a triple
heathen-mythic drink reappears as a potion of forgetfulness allaying
sorrow. The expression Sonar dreyri shows that the child had tasted
liquids from the subterranean fountains which water Yggdrasil and
sustain the spiritual and physical life of the universe (cp. Nos. 63 and
93). Son contains the mead of inspiration and wisdom. In Gylfaginning,
which quotes a satire of late origin, this name is given to a jar in
which Suttung preserves this valuable liquor, but to the heathen skalds
Son is the name of Mimer's fountain, which contains the highest
spiritual gifts, and around whose rush-bordered edge the reeds of poetry
grow (Eilif Gudrunson, Skaldskaparmal). The child Heimdal has,
therefore, drunk from Mimer's fountain. Jardar magn (the earth's
strength) is in reality the same as Urdar magn, the strength of the
water in Urd's fountain, which keeps the world-tree ever green and
sustains the physical life of creation (Voelusp.). The third subterranean
fountain is Hvergelmer, with hardening liquids. From Hvergelmer comes
the river Sval, and the venom-cold Elivogs (Grimner's Lay,
Gylfaginning). Svalkaldar saer, cool sea, is an appropriate designation
of this fountain.
When the child has been strengthened in this manner for its great
mission, it is laid sleeping in the decorated ship, gets the grain-sheaf
for its pillow, and numerous treasures are placed around it. It is
certain that there were not only weapons and ornaments, but also
workmen's tools among the treasures. It should be borne in mind that the
gods made on the plains of Ida not only ornaments, but also tools
(tangir skopu ok tol goerdu). Evidence is presented in No. 82 that
Scef-Heimdal brought the fire-auger to primeval man who until that time
had lived without the blessings produced by the sacred fire.
The boy grows up among the inhabitants on the Scandian coast, and, when
he has developed into manhood, human culture has germinated under his
influence and the beginnings of classes in society with distinct
callings appear. In Rigsthula, we find him journeying along "green
paths, from house to house, in that land which his presence has
blessed." Here he is called Rigr--it is true of him as of nearly all
mythological persons, that he has several names--but the introduction
to the poem informs us that the person so called is the god Heimdal
(einhverr af asum sa er Heimdallr het). The country is here also
described as situated near the sea. Heimdal journeys framm med
sjofarstroendu. Culture is in complete operation. The people are
settled, they spin and weave, perform handiwork, and are smiths, they
plough and bake, and Heimdal has instructed them in runes. Different
homes show different customs and various degrees of wealth, but
happiness prevails everywhere. Heimdal visits Ai's and Edda's
unpretentious home, is hospitably received, and remains three days. Nine
months thereafter the son Trael (thrall) is born to this family. Heimdal
then visits Ave's and Amma's well-kept and cleanly house, and nine
months thereafter the son Karl (churl) is born in this household. Thence
Rig betakes himself to Fadir's and Modir's elegant home. There is
born, nine months later, the son Jarl. Thus the three Teutonic
classes--the thralls, the freemen, and the nobility--have received their
divine sanction from Heimdal-Rig, and all three have been honoured with
In the account of Rig's visit to the three different homes lies the
mythic idea of a common fatherhood, an idea which must not be left out
of sight when human heroes are described as sons of gods in the
mythological and heroic sagas. They are sons of the gods and, at the
same time, from a genealogical standpoint, men. Their pedigree, starting
with Ask and Embla, is not interrupted by the intervention of the
visiting god, nor is there developed by this intervention a half-divine,
half-human middle class or bastard clan. The Teutonic patriarch Mannus
is, according to Tacitus, the son of a god and the grandson of the
goddess Earth. Nevertheless he is, as his name indicates, in the full
physical sense of the word, a man, and besides his divine father he has
had a human father. They are the descendants of Ask and Embla, men of
all classes and conditions, whom Voeluspa's skald gathered around the
seeress when she was to present to them a view of the world's
development and commanded silence with the formula: "Give ear, all ye
divine races, great and small, sons of Heimdal." The idea of a common
fatherhood we find again in the question of Fadir's grandson, as we
shall show below. Through him the families of chiefs get the right of
precedence before both the other classes. Thor becomes their progenitor.
While all classes trace their descent from Heimdal, the nobility trace
theirs also from Thor, and through him from Odin.
Heimdal-Rig's and Fadir's son, begotten with Modir, inherits in
Rigsthula the name of the divine co-father, and is called Rig Jarl.
Jarl's son, Kon, gets the same name after he has given proof of his
knowledge in the runes introduced among the children of men by Heimdal,
and has even shown himself superior to his father in this respect. This
view that the younger generation surpasses the older points to the idea
of a progress in culture among men, during a time when they live in
peace and happiness protected by Heimdal's fostering care and sceptre,
but must not be construed into the theory of a continued progress based
on the law and nature of things, a theory alike strange to the Teutons
and to the other peoples of antiquity. Heimdal-Rig's reign must be
regarded as the happy ancient age, of which nearly all mythologies have
dreamed. Already in the next age following, that is, that of the second
patriarch, we read of men of violence who visit the peaceful, and under
the third patriarch begins the "knife-age, and axe-age with cloven
shields," which continues through history and receives its most terrible
development before Ragnarok.
The more common mythical names of the persons appearing in Rigsthula are
not mentioned in the song, not even Heimdal's. In strophe 48, the last
of the fragment, we find for the first time words which have the
character of names--Danr and Danpr. A crow sings from the tree to
Jarl's son, the grandson of Heimdal, Kon, saying that peaceful amusement
(kyrra fugla) does not become him longer, but that he should rather
mount his steed and fight against men; and the crow seeks to awaken his
ambition or jealousy by saying that "Dan and Danp, skilled in navigating
ships and wielding swords, have more precious halls and a better
freehold than you." The circumstance that these names are mentioned
makes it possible, as shall be shown below, to establish in a more
satisfactory manner the connection between Rigsthula and other accounts
which are found in fragments concerning the Teutonic patriarch period.
The oldest history of man did not among the Teutons begin with a
paradisian condition. Some time has elapsed between the creation of Ask
and Embla, and Heimdal's coming among men. As culture begins with
Heimdal, a condition of barbarism must have preceded his arrival. At all
events the first generations after Ask and Embla have been looked upon
as lacking fire; consequently they have been without the art of the
smith, without metal implements, and without knowledge of agriculture.
Hence it is that the Vana-child comes across the western sea with fire,
with implements, and with the sheaf of grain. But the barbarous
condition may have been attended with innocence and goodness of heart.
The manner in which the strange child was received by the inhabitants of
Scandia's coast, and the tenderness with which it was cared for
(diligenti animo, says Ethelwerd) seem to indicate this.
When Scef-Heimdal had performed his mission, and when the beautiful boat
in which he came had disappeared beyond the western horizon, then the
second mythic patriarch-age begins.
HEIMDAL'S SON BORGAR-SKJOLD, THE SECOND PATRIARCH.
Ynglingasaga, ch. 20, contains a passage which is clearly connected with
Rigsthula or with some kindred source. The passage mentions three
persons who appear in Rigsthula, viz., Rig, Danp, and Dan, and it is
there stated that the ruler who first possessed the kingly title in
Svithiod was the son of a chief, whose name was Judge (Domarr), and
Judge was married to Drott (Drott), the daughter of Danp.
That Domar and his royal son, the latter with the epithet Dyggvi,
"the worthy," "the noble," were afterwards woven into the royal pedigree
in Ynglingasaga, is a matter which we cannot at present consider.
Vigfusson (Corpus Poet. Bor.) has already shown the mythic symbolism
and unhistorical character of this royal pedigree's Visburr, the
priest, son of a god; of Domaldr-Domvaldr, the legislator; of
Domarr, the judge; and of Dyggvi, the first king. These are not
historical Upsala kings, but personified myths, symbolising the
development of human society on a religious basis into a political
condition of law culminating in royal power. It is in short the same
chain of ideas as we find in Rigsthula, where Heimdal, the son of a god
and the founder of culture, becomes the father of the Jarl-judge, whose
son is the first king. Domarr, in the one version of the chain of
ideas, corresponds to Rig Jarl in the other, and Dyggvi corresponds to
Kon. Heimdal is the first patriarch, the Jarl-judge is the second, and
the oldest of kings is the third.
Some person, through whose hands Ynglingasaga has passed before it got
its present form in Heimskringla, has understood this correspondence
between Domarr and Rig-Jarl, and has given to the former the wife
which originally belonged to the latter. Rigsthula has been rescued in a
single manuscript. This manuscript was owned by Arngrim Jonsson, the
author of Supplementum Historiae Norvegiae, and was perhaps in his time,
as Bugge (Norr. Fornkv.) conjectures, less fragmentary than it now is.
Arngrim relates that Rig Jarl was married to a daughter of Danp, lord of
Danpsted. Thus the representative of the Jarl's dignity, like the
representative of the Judge's dignity in Ynglingasaga, is here
married to Danp's daughter.
In Saxo, a man by name Borgar (Borcarus--Hist. Dan. 336-354)
occupies an important position. He is a South Scandinavian chief, leader
of Skane's warriors (Borcarus cum Scanico equitatu, p. 350), but
instead of a king's title, he holds a position answering to that of the
Jarl. Meanwhile he, like Skjold, becomes the founder of a Danish royal
dynasty. Like Skjold he fights beasts and robbers, and like him he wins
his bride, sword in hand. Borgar's wife is Drott (Drotta, Drota),
the same name as Danp's daughter. Skjold's son Gram and Borgar's son
Halfdan are found on close examination (see below) to be identical with
each other, and with king Halfdan Berggram in whom the names of both are
united. Thus we find:
(1) That Borgar appears as a chief in Skane, which in the myth is the
cradle of the human race, or of the Teutonic race. As such he is also
mentioned in Script. rer. Dan. (pp. 16-19, 154), where he is called
Burgarus and Borgardus.
(2) That he has performed similar exploits to those of Skjold, the son
(3) That he is not clothed with kingly dignity, but has a son who founds
a royal dynasty in Denmark. This corresponds to Heimdal's son Rig Jarl,
who is not himself styled king, but whose son becomes a Danish king and
the progenitor of the Skjoldungs.
(4) That he is married to Drott, who, according to Ynglingasaga, is
Danp's daughter. This corresponds to Heimdal's son Rig Jarl, who takes
a daughter of Danp as his wife.
(5) That his son is identical with the son of Skjold, the progenitor of
(6) That this son of his is called Halfdan, while in the Anglo-Saxon
sources Scef, through his son Scyld (Skjold), is the progenitor of
Denmark's king Healfdene.
These testimonies contain incontestible evidence that Skjold, Borgar,
and Rig Jarl are names of the same mythic person, the son of the ancient
patriarch Heimdal, and himself the second patriarch, who, after Heimdal,
determines the destiny of his race. The name Borgarr is a synonym of
Skjoeldr. The word Skjoeldr has from the beginning had, or has in the
lapse of past ages acquired, the meaning "the protecting one," "the
shielding one," and as such it was applied to the common defensive
armour, the shield. Borgarr is derived from bjarga (past. part.
borginn; cp. borg), and thus has the same meaning, that is, "the
defending or protecting one." From Norse poetry a multitude of examples
can be given of the paraphrasing of a name with another, or even several
others, of similar meaning.
The second patriarch, Heimdal's son, thus has the names Skjold, Borgar,
and Rig Jarl in the heathen traditions, and those derived therefrom.
In German poems of the middle age ("Wolfdieterich," "Koenig Ruther," and
others) Borgar is remembered by the name Berchtung, Berker, and Berther.
His mythic character as ancient patriarch is there well preserved. He
is der grise mann, a Teutonic Nestor, wears a beard reaching to the
belt, and becomes 250 years old. He was fostered by a king Anzius, the
progenitor of the Amelungs (the Amalians). The name Anzius points to the
Gothic ansi (Asa-god). Borgar's fostering by "the white Asa-god" has
accordingly not been forgotten. Among the exercises taught him by Anzius
are daz werfen mit dem messer und schissen zu dem zil (compare Rig
Jarl's exercises, Rigsthula, 35). Like Borgar, Berchtung is not a king,
but a very noble and greatly-trusted chief, wise and kind, the
foster-father and counsellor of heroes and kings. The Norse saga places
Borgar, and the German saga places Berchtung, in close relation to
heroes who belong to the race of Hildings. Borgar is, according to Saxo,
the stepfather of Hildeger; Berchtung is, according to "Wolfdieterich,"
Hildebrand's ancestor. Of Hildeger Saxo relates in part the same as the
German poem tells of Hildebrand. Berchtung becomes the foster-father of
an Amalian prince; with Borgar's son grows up as foster-brother Hamal
(Helge Hund., 2; see Nos. 29, 42), whose name points to the Amalian
race. The very name Borgarr, which, as indicated, in this form refers
to bjarga, may in an older form have been related to the name
Next: Borgar-skjold's Son Halfdan The Third Patriarch
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