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particular. And another author of note, in a learned comment upon the subject of Baptism among the heathens, tells us that the rite certainly existed before the introduction of Christianity, and that Pilate's washing his hands before the multitude, was a kind of exemplification of it.
We have already touched upon the education of the Scandinavian youth, of their hardihood, and the hardships to which they were inured. But we must not omit to speak, of the great advantage they gained from it, I mean, an iron constitution, vigorous health, and matchless strength of body. Both Greek and
. Latin writers have never spoken but with astonishment of the great size and proportionate muscular powers of the Northmen. Cæsar has a similar remark upon the Suevi, a warlike nation dwelling between the Elbe and the Vistula : he says that they feed on milk, that they hunt much, and from the earliest age they do nothing against their will; and are therefore so robust and enormous in stature : a wise people! who practised none of that restraint and compulsion, with us miscalled discipline, so prejudicial to both mind and body. And Vegetius, who wrote on military tactics, says positively, that the tallness of the Germans gave them a great advantage over the diminutive stature of the Romans. Their lances, swords, and other arms, which have been preserved from those ages, are objects of curiosity and astonishment to mankind in these degenerate times. It is doubtless this uncommon strength and stature of the human race in former ages, that have given rise and credit to rumours so common in all countries, that giants were the first inhabitants of the earth. The cold, formerly in Europe much more rigorous than now-adays, continual bodily exercise, the continence of the men, and their late marriages, their simple diet, and especially their freedom from mental application (than which nothing so much obstructs muscular development) were the principal causes of these surprising instances of animal growth.
Among the Scandinavians the marriage ceremony was simple, and consisted chiefly in feasting. The suitor, after having
” obtained the consent of the parents or guardian of the damsel, as well as her own, fixed the wedding-day, assembled his relations
(7) Dalin, Hist. I, c. 9.
der and friends, and sent some of the latter, to receive the dower and Ise the bride, in his name, from the hands of her father. The friends Chic were answerable for what was entrusted to them, and if they itodi abused that trust the law condemned them to make amends in a
sum threefold greater than was awarded for a murder. The
damsel's father or guardian followed her into the husband's house, le si
and giving her into his hands, usually addressed to him these
words : ' I give you this damsel in honorable matrimony, to share ft
your bed, to have the keeping of the keys of the house, and a on third of whatever money you possess or shall possess, and to h Go
enjoy other rights determined by the law.' After this the newly married pair sat at table with the guests, who drank to their
health, and to their gods and heroes. Then, the friends of the like bride raised and carried her on their shoulders, a custom among
i s that the Goths used as a mark of esteem, and still not wholly obsolete
in our own country. The bride was conducted to the nuptial couch by her father; and before her was borne a number of
flambeaux,-an usage common also among the Greeks and cips Romans, and which is not yet abolished in some countries of the
north. The marriage, after this, was deemed consummated; the ce Co husband subsequently made divers presents to the wife, as a pair ture of oxen for the plough, a horse with fine trappings, together with
a lance and sword. And however inappropriate such gifts may dastel dal appear, they were not without their meaning. “It was (says
Tacitus) to intimate that she was not to lead a luxurious and idle in fe life, but was called upon to be a partaker of her husband's labours, to be the companion of his dangers whether in peace or
The wives also, on their part, gave armour. These mutual tokens were the conjugal bond, the mystic rites, their hymeneals.” mel. The armour, if the husband had made a right use of it, was ir freto religiously preserved, given with the portions of their daugh
ters, and transmitted as heir-looms to their posterity. Finally, after some days spent in feasts and diversions, the guests made presents of some cattle to the young pair, to commence housekeeping ; and returned to their homes.
It was to the extraordinary vigour of their constitution, that the Scandinavians owed that healthy and extreme old age, which
(8) Mallet's Introd. pp. 207, 8.
Germ. c. 18.
many of them enjoyed. Yet this advantage they regarded only with indifference, or even with disdain, upon which men generally set so high a value, especially since the invention of so many arts and pleasures to render life more desirable. For few of the northern people awaited that term which nature had allotted them; deeming old age inglorious, they courted death by single combats, general wars, the dangers and fatigues of the sea, and even by suicide so frequent among them; they were eager to quit the world, and to enter upon that glorious route, which alone led to a happy futurity. The influence which this strange persuasion had on them, cannot be more plainly seen, than in the last scenes of their lives, and in their funeral ceremonies.
In the more ancient times these were simple. The Scandinavians, before the arrival of Odin among them, were content with depositing the body of the defunct under a heap of earth or stones, together with his arms. But this prince introduced into the North new customs, and attended with some magnificence.
In the ages which followed his settlement in Denmark, funeral piles were customary, as was before said, on which the body of the dead was reduced to ashes. These being collected in an urn were buried under an artificial hillock. But this usage was never absolutely universal, and the former was introduced anew, five or six centuries after, as far as can be conjectured. However, in every age, when princes or heroes had perished gloriously in battle, all possible magnificence was put in requisition, to pay to their shades the last offices, in a manner worthy of his rank and merits. On the pile was placed whatever he had held most dear in life, his arms, gold, silver, war-horse, and domestics. Even his dependants and friends thought it an honour and a duty to die with him, and accompany him to Odin's Hall.
For nothing appeared to these warriors more glorious, than to enter their sensual Paradise, with a numerous cortege of slaves, friends, horses, accoutred in the finest armour, and clad in the richest robes. For Odin himself had assured them, that whatever had been burnt or interred with the dead, would accompany them to the Walhalla or Region of the Blest. And even the poorest, under this persuasion, carried with them, at least, their most necessary
| utensils and some money, in order not to be wholly unprovided
in the other world. It was from a motive somewhat similar, that the Greeks and Romans put a piece of money into the mouth of the deceased, that he might have wherewith to pay his passagemoney over the river Styx. And the Laplanders now inter with the departed a flint and steel and other apparatus, to light them along that dark road, which leads to the region of spirits.
Now, if polished nations have many observances wherein they differ but little from a rude people, it is especially in those which relate to religion, death, and their future destiny. Men cannot contemplate this awful subject coolly, and without falling into such hopes and fears, doubts, and desires, as leave to them scarcely the use of their reason. Accordingly, whatever Egypt, Greece, or Rome,-peoples otherwise so sage—taught upon this mysterious future, was it not a continual delirium, a day-dream, mere romancing, and old wives' tales—which will appear no whit better than the fables of the Celts and Scandinavians, if indeed it was not more indecent, revolting, and extravagant ?
Whatever riches were interred with the dead, were said to be under the especial guardianship of Odin, who forbade any trespasses of profane avarice upon the sacred tomb: such depositories were held in the highest sanctity, therefore, and remained inviolate. In the north of Germany such tombs have been frequently discovered, containing arms, spurs, rings, and vases of much value. Mallet records an instance of a grave opened at Guben' in Lusatia; which, as may be inferred from its contents, inclosed the remains of one, who had been a great lover of good cheer: for he had been careful to carry with him to Odin's banqueting-room varios utensils of cookery, with flagons and drinking cups of much cost and beauty : “In pago, uno milliari a Gubena distante,
, universus apparatus culinarius erutus est, cacabi, ollæ, catini, phialæ, patinæ, urceoli, lagenulæ, &c.” No doubt, this gourmand and votary of Bacchus was resolved to make his entrée into the unknown region with the highest mirth and jollity, and to have a jovial feast with Odin and his boon companions; being of the same opinion as the Platonists of old, to whom were perpetuated after death, those luxuries and pleasures, which formed the
(1) Vide Keysler, antiq. select. p. 173.
summum bonum of their happiness, while living: according to the words of the poet :
Quæ gratia curruum
VIRG. AEN. VI. 653-5.
7. A people, who neglect the refined and agreeable arts, will cultivate but indifferently the necessary ones.
The Scandinavians held both the one and the other in equal contempt. War absorbed every other pursuit. So long as this passion was in full force, whole tribes wandering from forest to forest, and subsisting, like the Scythians, upon the flocks they carried with them, scarcely thought of tillage ; indeed, they disdained such drudgery. But this prejudice gradually wore out, probably from necessity. For Christianity having at length triumphed over their fondness for piracy, and restored to Denmark a part of its inhabitants, they were compelled to continue at home, and to draw their subsistence from the soil, especially as other fruits were so rare among them, and the consumption of grain was so large both for food and beverage. But the same necessity did not reconcile them to the other arts, which were still looked upon as degrading occupations, fitting for slaves only. Gauls, Germans, and Scandinavians employed none but slaves, freedmen, women, and old men in handcraft trades, works of drudgery, and domestic service. Thus, they knew but little of what contributes to luxury and refinement, the mechanic arts being in the hands of the lower ranks of society. Gross and sensual, and priding themselves on their animal powers alone, they exerted these, to the neglect of the mental; as indolent in peace, as they were active in war.
The women spun the wool, of which part of their garments were made, and skins and furs supplied the rest.” These habits fitted tight to the body and were short and neat, like those of the Gothic nations. In this attire are discernible the rudiments of the modern European costume. It consisted of a kind of waistcoat and breeches or rather trowsers, which came down to the feet and tied at the ankles, like the nether garment of the Cossacks of the Don. Upon the pillars of Trajan and Antonine, the dresses of such nations as
(2) Bardon, sur les costumes des anciens Peuples.