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Myths The Myth Concerning The Earliest Period And The Emigrations From The North.

Halfdan's Birth And The End Of The Age Of Peace The Family Names Ylfing Hilding Budlung

The Sacred Runes Learned From Heimdal

Loke Causes Enmity Between The Gods And The Original Artists

Review Of The Svipdag Myth And Its Points Of Connection With The Myth About Halfdan

The War In Midgard Between Halfdan's Sons

Gulveig-heidr Her Identity With Aurboda Angrboda Hyrrokin The Myth Concerning The Sword Guardian And Fjalar

Hadding's Defeat Loke In The Council And On The Battle-field

The World War Its Cause The Murder Of Gullveig-heidr

Halfdan's Identity With Mannus In Germania

Hadding's Journey To The East Reconciliation Between The Asas And Vans

The Significance Of The Conflict From A Religious-ritual Standpoint

Halfdan And Hamal Foster-brothers The Amalians Fight In Behalf Of Halfdan's Son Hadding

Scef The Author Of Culture Identical With Heimdal-rig The Original Patriarch

Borgar-skjold's Son Halfdan The Third Patriarch

The Position Of The Divine Clans To The Warriors

Halfdan's Character The Weapon-myth

The Creation Of Man The Primeval Country Scef The Bringer Of Culture

Halfdan's Conflicts Interpreted As Myths Of Nature

Heimdal And The Sun-dis Dis-goddess

Evidence That Halfdan Is Identical With Helge Hundingsbane

The Teutonic Emigration Saga Found In Tacitus

Halfdan's Enmity With Orvandel And Svipdag

Sorcery The Reverse Of The Sacred Runes Gullveig-heidr The Source Of Sorcery The Moral Deterioration Of The Original Man

The Breach Of Peace Between Asas And Vans Frigg Skade And Ull In The Conflict

The Creation Of Man The Primeval Country Scef The Bringer Of Culture


Source: Teutonic Mythology

The human race, or at least the Teutonic race, springs, according to the
myth, from a single pair, and has accordingly had a centre from which
their descendants have spread over that world which was embraced by the
Teutonic horizon. The story of the creation of this pair has its root
in a myth of ancient Aryan origin, according to which the first parents
were plants before they became human beings. The Iranian version of the
story is preserved in Bundehesh, chap. 15. There it is stated that the
first human pair grew at the time of the autumnal equinox in the form of
a rheum ribes with a single stalk. After the lapse of fifteen years
the bush had put forth fifteen leaves. The man and woman who developed
in and with it were closely united, forming one body, so that it could
not be seen which one was the man and which one was the woman, and they
held their hands close to their ears. Nothing revealed whether the
splendour of Ahuramazda--that is to say, the soul--was yet in them or
not. Then said Ahuramazda to Mashia (the man) and to Mashiana (the
woman): "Be human beings; become the parents of the world!" And from
being plants they got the form of human beings, and Ahuramazda urged
them to think good thoughts, speak good words and do good deeds. Still,
they soon thought an evil thought and became sinners. The rheum ribes
from which they sprang had its own origin in seed from a primeval being
in human form, Gaya Maretan (Gayo-mert), which was created from
perspiration (cp. Vafthrudnersmal, xxxiii. 1-4), but was slain by the
evil Angra Mainyu. Bundehesh then gives an account of the first
generations following Mashia and Mashiana, and explains how they spread
over the earth and became the first parents of the human race.

The Hellenic Aryans have known the myth concerning the origin of man
from plants. According to Hesiodus, the men of the third age of the
world grew from the ash tree (ek meleon); compare the Odyssey, xix,

From this same tree came the first man according to the Teutonic myth.
Three asas, mighty and worthy of worship, came to Midgard (at husi,
Voelusp., 16; compare Voelusp., 4, where Midgard is referred to by the
word salr) and found a landi Ask and Embla. These beings were then
"of little might" (litt megandi) and "without destiny"
(oerloegslausir); they lacked oend, they lacked odr, they had no la
or laeti or litr goda, but Odin gave them oend, Honor gave them odr,
Loder gave them la and litr goda. In reference to the meaning of
these words I refer my readers to No. 95, simply noting here that litr
goda, hitherto defined as "good colour" (godr litr), signifies "the
appearance (image) of gods." From looking like trees Ask and Embla got
the appearance which before them none but the gods had assumed. The
Teutons, like the Greeks and Romans, conceived the gods in the image of

Odin's words in Havamal, 43, refer to the same myth.

The passage explains that when the Asa-god saw the modesty of the
new-made human pair he gave them his own divine garments to cover them.
When they found themselves so beautifully adorned it seems to indicate
the awakening sense of pride in the first human pair. The words are: "In
the field (velli at) I gave my clothes to the two wooden men (tveim
tremoennum). Heroes they seemed to themselves when they got clothes. The
naked man is embarrassed."

But the expressions a landi and velli at should be observed. That
the trees grew on the ground, and that the acts of creating and clothing
took place there is so self-evident that these words would be
meaningless if they were not called for by the fact that the authors of
these passages in Havamal and Voeluspa had in their minds the ground
along the sea, that is, a sea-beach. This is also clear from a
tradition given in Gylfaginning, chapter 9, according to which the three
asas were walking along the sea-beach (med saevarstroendu) when they
found Ask and Embla, and created of them the first human pair.

Thus the first human pair were created on the beach of an ocean. To
which sea can the myth refer? The question does not concern the ancient
Aryan time, but the Teutonic antiquity, not Asia, but Europe; and if we
furthermore limit it to the Christian era there can be but one answer.
Germany was bounded in the days of Tacitus, and long before his time, by
Gaul, Rhoetia, and Pannonia on the west and south, by the extensive
territories of the Sarmatians and Dacians on the east, and by the ocean
on the north. The so-called German Ocean, the North Sea and the Baltic,
was then the only body of water within the horizon of the Teutons, the
only one which in the days of Jordanes, after the Goths long had ruled
north of the Black Sea, was thought to wash the primeval Teutonic
strands. The myth must therefore refer to the German Ocean. It is
certain that the borders of this ocean where the myth has located the
creation of the first human pair, or the first Teutonic pair, was
regarded as the centre from which their descendants spread over more and
more territory. Where near the North Sea or the Baltic was this centre

Even this question can be answered, thanks to the mythic fragments
preserved. A feature common to all well-developed mythological systems
is the view that the human race in its infancy was under the special
protection of friendly divinities, and received from them the doctrines,
arts, and trades without which all culture is impossible. The same view
is strongly developed among the Teutons. Anglo-Saxon documents have
rescued the story telling how Ask's and Embla's descendants received the
first blessings of culture from the benign gods. The story has come to
us through Christian hands, which, however, have allowed enough of the
original to remain to show that its main purpose was to tell us how the
great gifts of culture came to the human race. The saga names the land
where this took place. The country was the most southern part of the
Scandinavian peninsula, and especially the part of it bordering on the
western sea. Had these statements come to us only from northern sources,
there would be good reason for doubting their originality and general
application to the Teutonic tribes. The Icelandic-Norwegian middle-age
literature abounds in evidence of a disposition to locate the events of
a myth and the exploits of mythic persons in the author's own land and
town. But in this instance there is no room for the suspicion that
patriotism has given to the southern-most part of the Scandinavian
peninsula a so conspicuous prominence in the earliest history of the
myth. The chief evidence is found in the traditions of the Saxons in
England, and this gives us the best clue to the unanimity with which the
sagas of the Teutonic continent, from a time prior to the birth of
Christ far down in the middle ages, point out the great peninsula in the
northern sea as the land of the oldest ancestors, in conflict with the
scholastic opinion in regard to an emigration from Troy. The region
where the myth located the first dawn of human culture was certainly
also the place which was regarded as the cradle and centre of the race.

The non-Scandinavian sources in question are: Beowulf's poem,
Ethelwerdus, Willielmus Malmesburiensis, Simeon Dunelmensis, and
Matthaeus Monasteriensis. A closer examination of them reveals the fact
that they have their information from three different sources, which
again have a common origin in a heathen myth. If we bring together what
they have preserved of the story we get the following result:[8]

One day it came to pass that a ship was seen sailing near the coast of
Scedeland or Scani,[9] and it approached the land without being
propelled either by oars or sails. The ship came to the sea-beach, and
there was seen lying in it a little boy, who was sleeping with his head
on a sheaf of grain, surrounded by treasures and tools, by glaives and
coats of mail. The boat itself was steady and beautifully decorated. Who
he was and whence he came nobody had any idea, but the little boy was
received as if he had been a kinsman, and he received the most constant
and tender care. As he came with a sheaf of grain to their country the
people called him Scef, Sceaf.[10] (The Beowulf poem calls him Scyld,
son of Sceaf, and gives Scyld the son Beowulf, which originally was
another name of Scyld.) Scef grew up among this people, became their
benefactor and king, and ruled most honourably for many years. He died
far advanced in age. In accordance with his own directions, his body was
borne down to the strand where he had landed as a child. There in a
little harbour lay the same boat in which he had come. Glittering from
hoar-frost and ice, and eager to return to the sea, the boat was waiting
to receive the dead king, and around him the grateful and sorrowing
people laid no fewer treasures than those with which Scef had come. And
when all was finished the boat went out upon the sea, and no one knows
where it landed. He left a son Scyld (according to the Beowulf poem,
Beowulf son of Scyld), who ruled after him. Grandson of the boy who came
with the sheaf was Healfdene--Halfdan, king of the Danes (that is,
according to the Beowulf poem).

The myth gives the oldest Teutonic patriarchs a very long life, in the
same manner as the Bible in the case of Adam and his descendants. They
lived for centuries (see below). The story could therefore make the
culture introduced by Scef spread far and wide during his own reign, and
it could make his realm increase with the culture. According to
scattered statements traceable to the Scef-saga, Denmark, Angeln, and at
least the northern part of Saxland, have been populated by people who
obeyed his sceptre. In the North Goetaland and Svealand were subject to

The proof of this, so far as Denmark is concerned, is that, according to
the Beowulf poem, its first royal family was descended from Scef through
his son Scyld (Skjold). In accordance herewith, Danish and Icelandic
genealogies make Skjold the progenitor of the first dynasty in Denmark,
and also make him the ruler of the land to which his father came, that
is, Skane. His origin as a divinely-born patriarch, as a hero receiving
divine worship, and as the ruler of the original Teutonic country,
appears also in Fornmannasoegur, v. 239, where he is styled Skaninga
god, the god of the Scanians.

Matthaeus Westmonast. informs us that Scef ruled in Angeln.

According to the Anglo-Saxon chronicle, the dynasty of Wessex came from
Saxland, and its progenitor was Scef.

If we examine the northern sources we discover that the Scef myth still
may be found in passages which have been unnoticed, and that the tribes
of the far North saw in the boy who came with the sheaf and the tools
the divine progenitor of their celebrated dynasty in Upsala. This can be
found in spite of the younger saga-geological layer which the hypothesis
of Odin's and his Trojan Asas' immigration has spread over it since the
introduction of Christianity. Scef's personality comes to the surface,
we shall see, as Skefill and Skelfir.

In the Fornalder-sagas, ii. 9, and in Flateyarbok, i. 24, Skelfir is
mentioned as family patriarch and as Skjold's father, the progenitor of
the Skjoldungs. There can, therefore, be no doubt that Scef, Scyld's
father, and through him the progenitor of the Skjoldungs, originally is
the same as Skelfir, Skjold's father, and progenitor of the Skjoldungs
in these Icelandic works.

But he is not only the progenitor of the Skjoldungs, but also of the
Ynglings. The genealogy beginning with him is called in the
Flateryarbok, Skilfinga aett edr skjoldunga aett. The Younger Edda also
(i. 522) knows Skelfir, and says he was a famous king whose genealogy
er koellut skilvinga aett. Now the Skilfing race in the oldest sources
is precisely the same as the Yngling race both from an Anglo-Saxon and
from a heathen Norse standpoint. The Beowulf poem calls the Swedish
kings scilfingas, and according to Thjodulf, a kinsman of the Ynglings
and a kinsman of the Skilfing, Skilfinga nidr, are identical
(Ynglingatal, 30). Even the Younger Edda seems to be aware of this. It
says in the passage quoted above that the Skilfing race er i
Austrvegum. In the Thjodulf strophes Austrvegar means simply
Svealand, and Austrkonungur means Swedish king.

Thus it follows that the Scef who is identical with Skelfir was in the
heathen saga of the North the common progenitor of the Ynglinga and of
the Skjoldunga race. From his dignity as original patriarch of the royal
families of Sweden, Denmark, Angeln, Saxland, and England, he was
displaced by the scholastic fiction of the middle ages concerning the
immigration of Trojan Asiatics under the leadership of Odin, who as the
leader of the immigration also had to be the progenitor of the most
distinguished families of the immigrants. This view seems first to have
been established in England after this country had been converted to
Christianity and conquered by the Trojan immigration hypothesis. Wodan
is there placed at the head of the royal genealogies of the chronicles,
excepting in Wessex, where Scef is allowed to retain his old position,
and where Odin must content himself with a secondary place in the
genealogy. But in the Beowulf poem Scef still retains his dignity as
ancient patriarch of the kings of Denmark.

From England this same distortion of the myth comes to the North in
connection with the hypothesis concerning the immigration of the
"Asiamen," and is there finally accepted in the most unconcerned manner,
without the least regard to the mythic records which were still well
known. Skjold, Scef's son, is without any hesitation changed into a son
of Odin (Ynglingasaga, 5; Foreword to Gylfag., 11). Yngve, who as the
progenitor of the Ynglings is identical with Scef, and whose very name,
perhaps, is or has been conceived as an epithet indicating Scef's tender
age when he came to the coast of Scandia--Yngve-Scef is confounded with
Frey, is styled Yngve-Frey after the appellation of the Vana-god Ingunar
Frey, and he, too, is called a son of Odin (Foreword to Gylfag., c. 13),
although Frey in the myth is a son of Njord and belongs to another race
of gods than Odin. The epithet with which Are Frode in his Schedae
characterises Yngve, viz., Tyrkiakonungr, Trojan king, proves that the
lad who came with the sheaf of grain to Skane is already in Are changed
into a Trojan.

[Footnote 8: Geijer has partly indicated its significance in Svea Rikes
Haefder, where he says: "The tradition anent Sceaf is remarkable, as it
evidently has reference to the introduction of agriculture, and shows
that it was first introduced in the most southern part of Scandinavia."]

[Footnote 9: The Beowulf poem has the name Scedeland (Scandia): compare
the name Skadan in De origine Longobardorum. Ethelwerd writes: "Ipse
Skef cum uno dromone advectus est in insulam Oceani, quae dicitur Scani,
armis circumdatus," &c.]

[Footnote 10: Matthaeus Westmonast. translates this name with frumenti
manipulus, a sheaf.]

Next: Scef The Author Of Culture Identical With Heimdal-rig The Original Patriarch

Previous: The Teutonic Emigration Saga Found In Tacitus

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